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Could the Linux Foundation get too big?

Even joining the Linux Foundation itself is no substitute for enabling honest collaboration with other companies on shared goals. Too many still worry this is exchanging precious bodily fluids -- next you'll want to fluoridate the water.

The folks over at the Linux Foundation were happy to announce today that MIPS Technologies has joined the group.

In addition to its chips MIPS has a lot of analog IP in the areas of  "digital consumer, home networking, wireless, communications and business applications." The company said most of its developers are already using Linux.

Fair enough. But this got me wondering whether it's possible for the Linux Foundation to get too big. Oracle is already a platinum member, Cisco a gold, Dell a silver. What if Microsoft wanted in? Or Apple?

At what point does the desire for growth crimp your mission?

This is not an immediate concern to me. One look at the group's new beta Web site shows they value two-way collaboration. Blogs are now very prominent on the page, including a piece on that bugaboo of every coder, writer and open source maven -- selling.

But Andrew Grant's piece illustrates some of my concerns. "Consider how F/OSS can wear the clothes (but not the practices) of conventional vendors," he writes.  I don't want you to talk, Mr. Gates. I want you to die (in the marketplace sense).

While Linux is not, as some still insist on claiming, "anti-capitalist," it does stand for values in the market, values that are still hard for many enterprises to adopt. The problem is no longer with vendors, but with customers who talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

This hurts them more than it does us.

Even joining the Linux Foundation itself is no substitute for enabling honest collaboration with other companies on shared goals. Too many still worry this is exchanging precious bodily fluids -- next you'll want to fluoridate the water. (Above, Sterling Hayden as Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.)

In a way you will. The need for collective action against the lack of a Moore's Law of software is not going away. Open source is the best process for making use of increased complexity.

But if everyone is nodding their heads in agreement on that, but still thinking open source is only free as in beer, then open source can still fail.

Do you understand that?