From the Bizarre to the Bazaar

How’s this for bizarre. A friend called on Friday saying her sister on the east coast saw me mentioned on David Letterman. Right, surely they were confusing me with the more media relevant Jonathan Schwartz. I didn’t think much of it (and besides, I’m supposed to be taking a vacation this week, and I didn’t pack a search engine).

So this morning, don’t ask why, I zipped over to, and sure enough, there I am (see #8). Is this my 15 minutes of fame? I’ve yet to see the video, but if they used the photo only my mother could love, I’ll need to have a new one done before Oprah calls.

On a more mundane note, I was in Portland last week, hosted by Tim O’Reilly and crew at OSCon. I was a bit early for my Q&A with Nathan Torkington, so I had a chance to listen in on a few of the speakers before me.

Andrew Morton (of Linux kernel fame) gave a low energy speech in which he said “Operating systems are commodities, now we’re moving to commoditize the rest of the stack.” He made those statements as if to suggest “commodity” meant “no longer of value.” I don’t think Andrew understands commodity markets. Here are a few: oil, gas, financial services, telecommunications and electricity. Commodity markets are the biggest and highest value markets in the world – because they represent products and services for which there’s global, perpetual demand. They tend to be markets won or lost based on research and development (check out the largest R&D spenders in the world, they’re almost all serving commodity markets). Computing may be a commodity – computers, and their operating systems, are most certainly not.

So when Andrew took a couple of obligatory potshots at Sun, saying “they should just give up on Solaris,” I thought to myself, he and I (and 2 million licensees) clearly see the market differently. A point amplified when I met with his employer after my speech to engage them (and their sponsors, many of whom support Solaris already) in partnering to drive the adoption of Open Solaris. Stay tuned, good things are underway to grow the marketplace, and tear down the walls. And OSDL may play a role.

After Andrew, Jeremy Zawodny gave a very compelling speech on the usage of open source at Yahoo! What was interesting to me, beyond the listing of all the open source projects used at Yahoo!, was the dichotomy in their business – between the usage of open source software, vs. the creation of proprietary products and services, like FlickR and Yahoo! Messenger. For which the code is obviously not available.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love FlickR (frankly, I’d love a conversion service to help me ease my family’s migration from other photo services) – but it once again pointed up the value of diversity in the ecosystem. There is no one hammer, or license, for all nails. Just as there’s no one software product (or kernel, Andrew).

The interview with Nat has yet to be posted – and although we were nowhere near as entertaining as Letterman on Friday, it’s worth a listen. Like the start of my week off, the questions ranged from the mundane (what’s Andy Bechtolsheim like? Answer: Tall.), to the bazaar [sic] (why didn’t you GPL Solaris? Answers: too many of our customers – especially those embedding Solaris – preferred a files based license; and we didn’t own all the IP within Solaris to predetermine a singular license for every contributor).

An interesting start to a week off.

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