Passion can be a good thing (Christ) or a bad thing (Hitler). Mark Shuttleworth’s passion has been a good thing for FLOSS in that he promoted its use on PCs and servers. He provided cash, a lot of cash. He provided a structure, Ubuntu. He provided infrastructure, sales, marketing, offices, and people all promoting FLOSS (Canonical).
Mark Shuttleworth doesn’t get FLOSS, the concept. He gets FLOSS as a business, but doesn’t understand that an essential element is that Free Software remains Free.
Jake Edge wrote, “In Shuttleworth’s view, the participation of companies is vital to bringing the Linux desktop to the next level, and there is no real path for purely software companies to move from producing proprietary software toward making free software.” If that is a correct interpretation of Shuttleworth, and it is consistent with what we have seen lately, then Shuttleworth’s belief is based on a simple error of logic. Shuttleworth assumes that because businesses are important for the promotion of FLOSS that the world owes businesses that produce only software a living. That is false. A business has to sell product and/or services. If the world finds merit in the products in price/performance, the world will support that business. There is no need to sell out software freedom for that to happen.
Canonical is doing very well by FLOSS without selling out FLOSS. At its present rate of growth Canonical will have a huge positive cash flow shortly. Is that not good business? It was also good business for SUN to open OpenOffice.org because they got StarOffice for less than the cost of one round of licences for that other office suite and it cost SUN nothing to open OpenOffice.org. A lot of the work was then done by others at no cost to SUN and SUN got a perpetual licence to a great office suite for very little cost forever. Oracle does not get FLOSS and they damaged OpenOffice.org and MySQL to some extent and Java largely, but that is their problem not FLOSS’s problem. Oracle is attacking a business validly using FLOSS, Google, over Android/Linux. The world can make software without large companies contributing software. Businesses do well to contribute to FLOSS but in their own interests because FLOSS is so useful to business either as a product or included in products and services. There is no need to sacrifice software freedom to make FLOSS more attractive to business. Business loves FLOSS as it is, most businesses anyway.
FLOSS needs simplified licensing. The GPL does that. Ask Linus. He’s not the greatest promoter of FLOSS but he loves what the GPL provides his project, the Linux kernel, lots of developers contributing freely, most from businesses. FLOSS is a great idea and a business that doesn’t get FLOSS is welcome to use FLOSS still but not to pollute FLOSS with non-free licences and restrictions. A business that gets FLOSS will have cheaper software, more software, more developers, independence from a single supplier, strength in numbers etc. There is no downside whatsoever to business. There is a downside to monopolists who insist on making $X per copy. There is a downside to businesses that use non-free software: higher costs, lower performance, burdens of audits/compliance, dependence on a single supplier, all liabilities. There is a cost to folks who don’t use FLOSS, the burden of non-free licensing.
Consider the ultimate example of the monopolist, M$. M$ is diversifying as fast as it can because it cannot beat FLOSS without a monopoly and the monopoly is in free fall. OEMs are now shipping millions of units with FLOSS. Retailers are now selling millions of units with FLOSS. M$’s only hope is to diversify and they are. Look at the proliferation of products unrelated to the old desktop monopoly. Everyone seems to get that non-free software only is not a valid business plan, even Shuttleworth. So, why does he tilt at windmills? The real enemy is non-free software as a concept implemented by monopolies, not FLOSS. FLOSS is good for everyone, businesses and organizations and individuals. There is no downside to normal folks who use FLOSS.
see LWN – Jake Edge- Mark Shuttleworth on companies and free software
The ultimate proof of my thesis is that companies that normally do not produce software are adopting FLOSS and getting involved in producing hardware that runs it and distributing the software. If existing business do not see that producing non-free software only is a failing business model they are in for a rude surprise. This year, shipments of Linux-powered systems running Free Software will eclipse shipments of non-free software and FLOSS is still picking up speed. FLOSS is beginning to take bigger share on the desktop, the last outpost of monopoly, and by next year that effect will be too big to ignore. The end of the failed business model (monopoly+non-free software) will be soon. FLOSS will prevail regardless what Shuttleworth does.