Linux Expo coverage
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Saturday at Linux ExpoOK, this isn't Saturday, but I finished out Friday with John Paul's keynote speech. John Paul was a vice president at Netscape, and is now thus a VP at AOL instead.
Most of the talk was a fairly straightforward presentation of what AOL is up to. He talked of the value of the traditional AOL service ("you probably don't use AOL, but your parents do" - applause), but pointed out that traditional AOL users are home-based, access the service mostly in the evening, and that usage of AOL varies greatly depending on what is on the television.
Thus the acquisition of Netscape - Netscape's users are often business people, and are usually active during the day. By picking up Netscape, AOL has extended its reach to a new group of users.
Mr. Paul had a few observations and predictions for the future:
Unfortunately, iI had to catch a plane in the early afternoon, and missed much of the Saturday events. That means, among other things, that I missed much of the Extreme Linux track. Sigh.
I had a good talk with Scott McNeil and Bodo Bauer of Zenguin. They are out to change the way software is distributed and installed; please see The Day of the Zenguin for a description of what they are up to.
Perhaps one of the best sessions of the show was Paul Everitt's talk entitled "Funding the perfect beast: open source, venture capital, and intellectual property." Paul is the president of Digital Creations, the company behind the Zope web application environment. Zope has been released under an open source license, following the advice of Digital Creations' venture capital firm; see our December, 1998 story on Zope for the full scoop on all that.
Paul started off asking how many people thought that companies like Microsoft or Oracle were a threat. A large part of the audience raised its hands. He then responded that such concerns were misplaced, that it is a big mistake to focus on those companies. He proposed what appears to be a variant of Godwin's law: as soon as somebody mentions Microsoft, logic is suspended for the rest of the conversation.
It is better, says Paul, to focus on helping your friends, not attacking your enemies. And besides, nobody will ever finance a business plan that involved fighting Microsoft.
So why should open source companies go for venture capital financing? Paul had a number of reasons:
About the decision to release Zope as an open source system: for Digital Creations (and their customers), the ability to create Principia (Zope's proprietary predecessor) was far more important than Principia itself. It is the ability that they are selling. The goose is more important than the golden eggs that it lays. Opening up the software allowed them to concentrate on selling that which really makes them money: their engineering capabilities.
Paul also pointed out that working in the open source mode has made hiring much easier. Digital Creations can not only hire top-quality engineers easily, but they tend to come in already knowing all about their platform.
The talk finished with a few pointers for people wishing to run an open source business:
The slides for this talk have been posted.
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