Tim O'Reilly interview - O'Reilly on Linux (part 1)
By Alun Williams
Posted on 14 Jul 2003 at 12:30
O'Reilly & Associates is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. To mark the event - and coinciding with a visit of Tim O'Reilly to London - we put the important questions to him regarding the battle between IBM and SCO, the fate of Linux, his involvement in the world of open source, and his love of science fiction...
Starting with a rather topical question... You are known as an advocate for Open Source software. What are the implications for Linux/Open Source if SCO actually wins its case against IBM?
O'Reilly: I think that the chance that SCO actually has any substance to their case is vanishingly small, and if, by any chance, they do, IBM has enough of a commitment to Linux that I believe the effect will be minimal.
But what if SCO can establish that Unix source has leaked into the Linux kernel?
O'Reilly: What is most likely if there is any infringement is that it will turn out that there is infringement in the other direction as well. If you recall, when ATT sued UC Berkeley over Berkeley Unix, the case was eventually settled because it turned out that System V had incorporated at least as much Berkeley code (without attribution, the one requirement of the Berkeley license) as Berkeley had incorporated from ATT. And while that lawsuit held back the development of BSD Unix because the University was threatened by the lawsuit, there is no similar chilling effect for Linux. Individual developers aren't going to stop developing, and IBM has so many lawyers, as well as so many patents and other proprietary IP that they can make far more problems for SCO than SCO can make for IBM. Clearly, this is a desperate move by a company that doesn't have anything to lose, and a lot to hope for if their blackmail succeeds.
What do you believe are the major concerns currently facing the open source community and its model for software development?
O'Reilly: My major concern is that open source developers haven't completely understood the implications of the 'Internet paradigm shift.'
The Linux community, for instance, will still respond to charges that Linux isn't as easy to use as Windows by pointing to the great progress in Gnome and OpenOffice. But they should be pointing out that most of the great 'killer applications' of the Internet era (all of which are easier to use than any desktop application) - Google, amazon.com, maps.yahoo.com and the like - all run on Linux or BSD Unix. The fact that applications are no longer desktop-bound, but use a Linux-based back end, and a front end that is platform agnostic (going beyond even the choice of Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux to increasingly include PDAs, cell-phones and other handheld devices), is truly transformational.
As Sun has always said, 'the network is the computer', and the LAMP platform (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP or Perl) is the 'Intel Inside' of the next generation of killer applications.
(Speaking of these applications, I should point out that our recent book about Google-power user tips for the search engine, and a developer's guide to the Google web services API-has been the number one computer book bestseller in the US since its publication in February.)
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