To the desktop! Linux fans want more free source code for PC applications

Summary:SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Eric Raymond, one of the biggest supporters of the open-source-code movement, has a message for his followers: Get the desktop.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Eric Raymond, one of the biggest supporters of the open-source-code movement, has a message for his followers: Get the desktop.

"We've come an astonishingly long way in a short time ... not because reality has changed, but because perception has changed," said Raymond, in challenging the 200 developers gathered here at the Open Source Developer Day to create -- and market -- more products for the PC.



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Open source code, the practice of opening up program code so anyone can develop it, has gained strength with the growth of Linux, a strain of the Unix operating system.

But most of the attention has been focused on servers. Raymond is a software developer whose influential paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar helped encourage Netscape Communications Corp. (Nasdaq:NSCP) to open its browser source code. In the past few months, the open-source-code movement has landed the attention of several industry heavyweights on the server side, including Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq:ORCL), Informix Corp. (Nasdaq:IFMX), and IBM (NYSE:IBM).

In the future, Raymond said, open-source-code companies must target Fortune 500 companies, getting to the point where people think, "open source is the safe option, conventional wisdom, that you can never get fired for doing it."

He urged developers to create desktop software with user-friendly interfaces.

One developer responds
In response, AbiSource.com announced Friday that it soon plans to release the source code for a suite of productivity applications including a word processor (AbiWord) and a spreadsheet (AbiCalc). It's the consulting company's first foray into the open-source world.

'One of the things I love most about open source code is not that it attracts better developers -- Microsoft has plenty of bright developers -- but that your users get brighter.'
-- Jeremy Allison

Though many attendees spent time bashing Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT) and hissing every time the company's name popped up, Raymond said the software giant is just a symptom of the larger problem of proprietary code.

"What we really need to beat isn't Microsoft, it isn't Bill Gates and his $51 billion," Raymond said. "What we really need to beat is the closed-source postulates of which Microsoft is an exemplar."

Unlike proprietary products developed by Microsoft and others, software coming out of the open-source movement -- including Linux and the Web server software Apache -- provides developers with technology building blocks, also known as source code.

In effect, no corporation "owns" the code in a traditional sense. Developers are free to suggest alterations to the code as long as they keep their changes public.

Better products the result
Jeremy Allison, a developer of Samba -- an open-source technology that, in effect, disguises UNIX machines so they act more like NT servers -- said shared code leads to better products because more people are working on it.

"One of the things I love most about open source code is not that it attracts better developers -- Microsoft has plenty of bright developers -- but that your users get brighter," said Allison. He said open-source developers need to trust those users.

Topics: Open Source, IBM, Linux, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Oracle, PCs, Servers, Software

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