Is IBM open source's little friend?

IBM is getting a lot from open source. The question is, what is it giving open source in return? Is it a fair exchange?

It was a small point in my interview with Peter Burris of IPSwap, but it stuck with me all day.

"The open source movement has lived and breathed for the past number of years based on a lot of goodwill from a lot of people. But the folks making the money are IBM, Accenture, HP and others who appropriate this value and monetize it in the form of services."

I think it was the reference to IBM that got me.

That is because one of the big post-Linuxworld features is all about IBM, and how IBM is going to use open source to beat big, bad Microsoft.

I haven't written about Big Blue in some time. They are big in open source. Usually they are fairly quiet about it -- quieter than the entrepreneurs whose PR folks barge down my door every day, anyway. (Keep barging, by the way. I'll make coffee.)

The story, from Motley Fool, says IBM is going to get Linux running faster on its proprietary chips, go after smaller customers using the cost benefits of open source, and push an "open health care framework" to push computers into smaller medical offices.

So IBM is getting a lot from open source. The question is, what is IBM giving open source in return? Is it a fair exchange? Are they really our little friend, in the Barney sense? Or are we talking about it in the Scarface sense?

Inquiring minds want to know. I know what IBM will say. They will say yes. But what does the community say? What do you say?

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