Warnock isn't a regular visitor to Slashdot.org (popular site for Linux users and open source supporters) but in March Adobe (with Sun) put up a total of $90,000 in bounties for independent developers to come up with specific implementations for the Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL -- a working draft from the W3C that will allow developers to apply formatting guides to documents created using XML). In effect, Adobe is putting its arms up and asking for help from the open source community -- a significant development for a corporate, but one Warnock is entirely comfortable with. "We really believe that this is not just a single company thing -- particularly with the plug-in architecture it has -- it's an eco-system. A whole bunch of partners who can add value."
ZDNet: "Is the open source community something you are prepared to tap in order to solve a problem you yourselves can't fix?"
Warnock: "Absolutely. I think that's a great idea. We haven't announced any of our open source plans yet but we have plans. Certain initiatives demand that sort of relationship. What your readers should know is that for certain projects using open source is completely appropriate and especially for support on arcane platforms and handheld devices -- all kinds of things we're not going to take the initiative to support."
ZDNet: So are you going to be in touch with the open source community on a number of initiatives in the near future, including products like InDesign?
Warnock believes the days of proprietary solutions are numbered. "I think organisations like Quark, who are fiercely proprietary, will suffer at the hands of those who use open standards and invite help from the open source community.
"Would we put up the source code for Photoshop? Not in a million years, well maybe sometime in the future. But something like that is so horrendously complex it is just not feasible, the build mechanics are just too horrendous. But sure, if we needed help the open source community could provide it, absolutely."
Importantly, the open source phenomenon is not seen by the Adobe chief as an irritation or a threat, more as a comrade to be called upon when extra heads are needed to make a product work. If it works, you've done good says Warnock, who is keen for ZDNet readers to know that he recently intercepted a move to upgrade Adobe's network to Windows NT in favour of Linux which he describes as a perfectly viable alternative to NT. Almost.
"I want to pay for an operating system from a vendor with a contractual relationship that gives me recourse if things go wrong. Some people who have this utopian view that everything should be free don't understand the necessity for governments or corporations that to embrace open source they have to have the economic foundation to do that. They need to improve their understanding of basic economics."
Ouch! Try saying that on Slashdot.
Take me to Part III of the John Warnock Interview