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COMPUTING

Sun wants to 'community source' everything

November 19, 1999
Web posted at: 9:44 a.m. EST (1444 GMT)

by Clare Haney

From...
IDG.net
Image

SAN FRANCISCO (IDG) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. is working towards eventually "community sourcing" as much of its software as possible, according to company Co-founder and Chief Scientist Bill Joy.

Community sourcing means that Sun makes the source code for a product publicly available so that developers can download the code free of charge and make changes to it as long as they report back to Sun any bugs they encounter.

The Sun concept falls short of open source, as popularized by the Linux community, where anyone can access the software and amend it, whether for development or commercial use. Under the community-sourcing model, Sun charges commercial users a license fee.

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"We already offer it with our microprocessors, Solaris, Java, Jini and our HPC (high-performance computing) software," Joy said here at the Asia-Pacific IT Summit in an interview with IDG News Service. "Our intention is to try to do it with everything."

The only limit to community sourcing Sun's software portfolio will occur where the software in question includes technology licensed from third-party vendors, Joy added.

Joy expects that Microsoft Corp. will try to open source some of its software, but only for "publicity value," he said.

Sun is unlikely to go all the way towards open-sourcing all its software, although the company will opt for the open-source route sometimes, Joy said.

"Open source has no notion of stewardship in terms of who controls the software's destiny," Joy said. Also, in its purest form, open source has no intellectual property rights, meaning that the creators of the software don't derive any reward from having created it, he added. In order to encourage and stimulate innovation, inventors needed to be financially rewarded for their creations.

On Tuesday at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, Jeff Bernard, Sunís director of marketing for Solaris Software, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, said that Sun is eventually likely to make its Unix operating system an open-source product.

Although Sun's StarOffice suite is being offered free of charge, it is not free in the sense that developers can take it and break it, Joy said. In order to add value to the office productivity suite, StarOffice will also follow the community-sourcing route so that developers can give their input and feedback on the software to Sun as a basis for future versions of the suite, he added.


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