Sponsored by Forest Grove Economic Development
Home Archives March 2007 First Person: Commentary from Sax.Net founder Mike Sax

First Person: Commentary from Sax.Net founder Mike Sax

| Print |  Email
Thursday, March 01, 2007

MikeSax.jpgIt’s time for open-source and commercial software advocates to do what’s right for the customer.

By Mike Sax

The world of software has gone through quite a bit of change since I moved to Eugene to start my own software company 15 years ago. At the time, one of my favorite things about the industry was the way companies would vigorously compete and work together at the same time. Building products customers wanted was the central focus and, in many cases, these customers used a mix of competing products from different vendors.

Software companies were so focused on pleasing their customers they would set their dislike of competitors aside in order build products that would play well with others. A new word — co-opetition — was even invented to describe the practice.

A few years ago there was a big change in the industry. Everyone started suing each other over technology integration and patent violations. It felt like the lawyers were pushing the developers aside and taking over. It was a trend that made the industry much less fun for the technology geeks who started it and much more complicated for customers. Suddenly, customers were caught in the middle of legal disputes and forced to choose sides on issues they didn’t care about. All they wanted was products that worked together well.

The good news: The tide seems to be turning. Recently, two industry giants, Novell and Microsoft, announced an agreement that brings back the spirit of doing what’s right for the customer. Novell is one of the primary vendors of Linux, archrival to Microsoft’s Windows operating system. The agreement put their business differences aside and created a framework in which the two companies would support and work with each other’s products.

Utah-based Novell is a poster child for open-source software, while Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., is the world’s most successful commercial software company. Oregon is somewhere around the middle between these worlds.

Our state has attracted some of the best open-source talent (Oregon resident Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux, comes to mind) and has developed a strong reputation in the open-source world. At the same time, many of Oregon’s best jobs depend on commercial software and technology companies. The struggle between open-source and commercial software has manifested itself in corporations, universities and even state government.

The rivalry between open-source and commercial software has caused many people to take sides, but the practical reality is not so black and white. Most organizations use a mix of both kinds of software. Most customers don’t care about the philosophy behind their software; they just want something that does the job well.

This Novell-Microsoft peace-making agreement has generated lots of buzz. Analysts, bloggers and journalists have been speculating on the wider implications, the strategic impact, what it all means — even a conspiracy theory or two. I don’t care to join the ideological debate.

What I do care about is the practical impact — which for us is 100% positive. Like many businesses, we rely on both commercial and open-source software. So when two giants from separate worlds decide that it’s time to do what’s right for their mutual customers, that is a very good thing. With Novell and Microsoft agreeing to mutual support, I don’t have to worry about getting caught between finger-pointing support agents. I can choose the best tool for the job.

I’m optimistic again about the software industry. Things were looking grim for a while — we heard more about legal strategies than about new products. Now, it looks like co-opetition is back and customers are the kingmakers of the industry again. As a customer, I’ll always pick companies that choose innovation over litigation.

Everyone benefits from focusing on solutions rather than a game of tug-of-war between commercial and open-source software. Oregon is fortunate to have a strong foot in both worlds, with a leadership position in open source and large numbers of Oregonians being employed by commercial software companies. Animosity between the two is unproductive. If we can keep Oregon’s civil wars limited to football rather than software, we’ll all be better off.

Mike Sax is president and founder of Sax.Net in Eugene.

ave an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Podcast: Interview with Steve Balzac

Contributed Blogs
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

082014BalzacBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Tom Cox interviews Steve Balzac, author of "Organizational Psychology for Managers."


Read more...

Green Endeavor cleans up

News
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
080614 ULnew greenendeavorBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.


Read more...

Who said we should sell in May?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, July 18, 2014
BullMarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Back in May, we shared a common Wall Street quote about investing, “Sell in May and go away.” Fast forward to July and the most common question we have been getting from clients is, “When is the market pullback going to occur?”


Read more...

South Waterfront's revenge

News
Thursday, July 24, 2014
MoodyAveBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Remember the naysayers?  Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle?  Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?


Read more...

Risks & rewards of owning triple net investments

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 24, 2014
NNNinvestmentBY CLIFF HOCKLEY | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

With the increasing retirements of Baby Boomers, a massive real estate shift has created a significant increase in demand for NNN properties. The result? Increased demand has triggered higher prices and lower yields.


Read more...

Why I became an Oregon angel investor

Guest Blog
Monday, July 14, 2014
AngelInvestBY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE

I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit.


Read more...

Oregon Business wins awards

News
Monday, June 30, 2014

ASBPEOregon Business magazine won two silver awards for excellence in writing in the National American Society of Business Publication Editors Western region competition.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS