Caldera CEO: MS right to shun open source

Some open-source advocates considered Microsoft's recent public flaming of the GNU General Public License equivalent to criticizing motherhood and apple pie. But not Ransome Love, CEO of Caldera Systems.

Some open-source advocates considered Microsoft's recent public flaming of the GNU General Public License equivalent to criticizing motherhood and apple pie. But not Ransome Love, CEO of Caldera Systems

Love said he thinks Microsoft was right in its claim that the GPL doesn't make much business sense. Consequently, Caldera is likely to add a non-GPL licensing mechanism--most likely one based on the BSD license--to its repertoire in the coming months.

"Microsoft is attacking open source at its weakest point: the GPL," said Love in an interview this week with Ziff Davis.

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Love said that Microsoft has raised a valid point in questioning whether companies can build valid, supportable business models around the Free Software Foundation's GPL.

Microsoft Senior Vice President Craig Mundie outlined Microsoft's objections to the GPL and open source in general last week during a speech at New York University. Mundie questioned the wisdom of commercial and government entities embracing GPL'd software, claiming that by doing so, they could find their own intellectual property no longer protected by law.

Caldera has some similar misgivings--not about the GPL model being the optimal one for open-source development, but about how appropriate the GPL is for open-source software that is sold commercially, Love acknowledged.

As a result, Caldera is "seriously looking at and considering different licensing models," he said. Caldera is considering BSD and "other licensing models" that "would be truly open source but still allow folks to influence the (development) process," Love added. According to the Free Software Foundation Web site, the so-called modified BSD license is considered GPL-compatible, but the original BSD license, because of an advertising clause, is not. Other free software licenses not considered fully GPL compatible by the Free Software Foundation include the Apache license, the Mozilla Public License, the IBM Public License and the Sun Public License.

Exactly when and how Caldera might introduce a new licensing model is uncertain, Love said. "You'd need to make sure to have clean interfaces between GPL and non-GPL protected code," he noted.

But he added that companies like Sun Microsystems and Microsoft already have found ways to offer different, compatible operating system kernels (such as embedded, desktop, server and the like) based on a common set of interfaces. So Caldera would not be hard pressed to do something similar, Love said.

"We would back the GPL as the preferred development-model license," Love said, "but we would back different models for other purposes." At the same time, Love explained, "we would continue to develop and publicly license pieces of technology under the GPL."