Brian Behlendorf: Apache co-founder talks about open source

By Ashlee Vance, IDG News Service |  Development

My hope is that we don't have to do the whole outreach to the average user. That's what the role is for the corporations that get involved -- the companies like Covalent or IBM and Sun, or any of these others that are out there using Apache technology. Their role is to be the front end to the rest of the world in terms of the use, and promoting it. I think that is a very healthy part of the industry. The companies have by and large found their appropriate roles, which is to be this front end.

IDGNS: Do you think Microsoft will eventually cave in to the idea of open source?

Behlendorf: I have gotten past making Microsoft predictions at this point. With $25 billion, it is hard not to be successful. Who knows what will happen, though. I think once whatever they do with .NET finally crystallizes -- becomes apparent to the world what it is and how it works -- there will be open-source alternatives to it. As best as I understand .NET today, there are open-source equivalents.

They have dribbled out open source here and there about whether they might open source C#. I don't think they are honest about it, though. I haven't seen any evidence that they are honest yet. They are shifting their business model a bit more toward services. I can't see how they wouldn't be threatened by the type of level playing field that having an open-source approach would bring.

IDGNS: Microsoft seemed to have hijacked XML in a way and then Oracle followed by claiming that what Microsoft was doing was not really XML and that Oracle would bring it back. Do you have any opinions on this XML battle of sorts?

Behlendorf: XML is just one step above ASCII. XML by itself isn't anything radical or huge. I think XML is a better way to organize non-table-based types of data. It could even be used for relational type of data.

People tried to get that out of HTML, but HTML just isn't flexible enough to really be a data storage kind of format or data interchange format. I am glad to see XML out there and widely used; it is just that there is a lot of hype around it.

IDGNS: What about Linux on the desktop? How is that coming along and when could it ever compete with Windows with regard to widespread consumer use?

Behlendorf: Well, OpenOffice is hopefully a big step toward solving the major problem, which is a lack of an office suite. People are starting to solve these problemss. What is needed is that the distribution vendors -- companies like Corel and Red Hat -- start looking at how to make their stuff as easy to use as Windows, in fact even aping Windows in certain situations; have a control panel that looks and acts just like the one under Windows; have a file viewer that looks and acts like the one in Windows.

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