Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Technology Review: Sellout or Savior

Technology Review: Sellout or Savior "There’s a sense of dissonance in the office of Miguel de Icaza. On one hand, here is the celebrated hacker—as in programming whiz, not virtual trespasser—wearing a T-shirt, looking boyish and rail-thin, and resembling an impoverished graduate student who has been living on coffee. But here also is the vice president of product technology for staid software giant Novell, entirely at ease as he takes command of a plush corporate conference room in Cambridge, MA, with a view of the Charles River and the Boston skyline. It’s a dissonance, however, that de Icaza is quick to wave away. “There are a lot of motivations in the open-source community, like the freedom to choose software platforms and the chance to innovate,” he says, referring to the global community of programmers who write software that others are free to download and modify. “Now one of my motivations is that I’m being paid to do this, and I have to deliver products.
...To some in the open-source software community, de Icaza is a fallen angel—a legendary hacker who has strayed from the good and pure. One gripe within the community: Mono enlists code that appears dangerously similar to .Net code heavily patented by Microsoft. More generally, some worry that de Icaza represents the breakdown of the once strong barrier between open source and the corporate world. In fact, Microsoft has apparently come to deeply regret spurning de Icaza back in 1997. Microsoft software architect Don Box even wrote a song imploring de Icaza to join the company and sang it to him in front of a large audience at a party late last year. But even though he didn’t heed Box’s siren song, de Icaza has essentially been accused of selling out to the corporate world.
If Mono achieves its goal, then Linux and other open-source programs are likely to continue to gain favor at the expense of Windows. Microsoft might then very well lose its long-standing domination of the computing world altogether, which would likely lower the cost of computing and, theoretically, provide more and better choice in software. That, at least, is the open-source vision. But revolutions seldom go according to plan. To know how the odyssey of de Icaza, and his fellow open-source programmers, will turn out, you’ll just have to stay tuned."
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