Funambol asks EU to approve the Oracle+Sun deal

I was very concerned when DG Competition announced that they needed to take more time to investigate the merger of Oracle and Sun because of MySQL. The deal for me seemed not only natural for business reasons, but also naturally neutral towards consumers.  MySQL is safe also in Oracle’s hands because the project, with so many big companies knowing its internals, is basically too big to fail now. Even if Oracle should decide not to finance its development (which makes absolutely no business sense for them) there should be enough providers out there capable of offering support to users and further its development (software patents threat excluded).

I’m very happy that Funambol has sent a letter to European Commissioner Neelie Kroes asking her to approve rapidly the Oracle + Sun merger. I totally agree with Fabrizio Capobianco, Funambol’ CEO, put all his

The database market is highly dynamic, and the software on which these enterprises are built can neither be owned nor their development paths easily controlled or curtailed.

And the damage for this wait is huge, not just for the companies, but for the employee. With Sun loosing $100Million per month, there is not much time to waste. Says Fabrizio:

The alternative to a full merger is likely to be the exit of SUN Microsystems from the database market. […] Their likely exit from the market will harm the open source software market and further entrench the position of proprietary software providers.

I hope that Commissioner Kroes listens and that Funambol’s letter can help clear her doubts.

Skype open source. Not!

Skype open source? Reading the full announcement on Skype blog:

[…]Having an open source UI will help us […]

So, it’s not Skype being open sourced, but it’s only the UI. The full sentence should be:

Having an open source UI will help us further our [Skype’s] plans to monopolize the Voice Over IP market with a proprietary and secret protocol that nobody can interoperate with. [Evil laugh]

I wish Google released a fully free and open source Gtalk, server included.

Thoughts on mobile cloud computing

Mobile cloud computing represents an opportunity for the free/libre open source software movement that is just as big and radical as cloud computing, maybe even moreso. This is part 1 of a post about it, part 2 will follow shortly.

By the end of 2009, 4 billion people will use mobile phones. By 2013, that number is projected to grow to 6 billion. That is many times the number of personal computer users. By definition, mobile phones that access the internet are performing mobile cloud computing: handsets need to borrow storage and computing power from the cloud because of their limited resources.

Just as Free/Libre Open Source Software played a major role in the growth of the Internet and cloud computing, sparking issues about openness and freedom, the Free Software movement has the potential to provide a similar yet different impact on mobile cloud computing.

To mitigate the power of the cloud computing vendors and reduce the risk of lock-in the free/libre software community and proprietary vendors are discussing policies and proposing standards. Various communities, from Open Cloud Manifesto to Autonomo.us think-tank, are searching ways to guarantee interoperability, security, privacy for users of the cloud services.

Mobile cloud services have similar issues, although the expected impact on the users is different. While a desktop user has the option to keep pictures in the cloud, on services like Flickr or use local storage, mobile user’s choice is limited by the device form factor.  Even if mobile devices are not exactly ‘dumb’ terminals, but they’re not ‘super-smart’ either. Usually the applications are resident on the device, but not all of the user’s data or the computing power can fit in there.  Therefore mobile cloud servicese ‘lend’ computing power to the handset when it connects to the service, which then can continue working ‘disconnected’. For example, a phone can use extra storage from the cloud for multimedia files, like pics or music. The mobile cloud service can then push to the device a special music playlist for a running workout when it’s needed.

Mobile cloud services are largely dominated by vendor specific walled gardens, and debate is not as intense as the numbers of cell phone users would suggest. Probably this is due to the fact that not only Free Software powered mobile phones are not easy to find, but also installing new software on phones was not an option for the mass market until recently. Now, after iPhone and with more and more ‘application stores’ emerging, the issue of mobile users’ freedom is showing up: billions of new handset users have the issue of freedom for the software on the device and freedom in the mobile cloud.

The Free Software community has to step in the mobile cloud debate or a large piece of digital citizens will not be able to enjoy the benefits that free software has brought to larger computer users.  The mobile cloud is pretty much an open territory where many vendors are already fighting to lock-in their users.

The birds of a feather session at OSCON is devoted to the idea of “open mobile” cloud computing. Some of the questions that we can discuss include:

  • What is open mobile cloud computing and what does it mean?
  • What components, solutions, technology, ecosystem and standards are involved?
  • What provisions are needed to safeguard everyone’s rights?
  • What tools are already available to build free as in freedom mobile cloud services?

If you would like to participate in this birds of a feather session @OSCON or this discussion, please contact me.

Closer to be perceived as a “Social Cause”

Bradley is right to be excited for the phone call he received from a socially responsible investment company. While social responsibility has become a big issue for many companies, corporate reports focus mainly on projects to protect the environment, to sustain developing countries and to improve working conditions of their employees and contractors. So far, use and support of Free Software doesn’t appear in social responsibility reports. Companies instead mention more and more their support to Free Software (often using the term “Open Source”) in their marketing brochures. As a bad result, many people believe that Oracle is an ‘Open Source’ company, together with Google, nVidia and Intel since these have ‘Linux’ and ‘OSS’ all over.

I think we need a way to measure how close the actions of corporations are to the values of the Free Software movement and put such measure into corporate reports. We might discover that what they do is (or is not) far away from what they say in their brochures.’  This index (call it Free Software Fairness Index) could serve as a basis for classification of Free Software Business, on which socially responsible investment funds can decide to invest. This FSF Index could be an indicator of the adherence of the companies’ actions to the principles of the GNU Manifesto.

It’s not simple to summarize real life actions into a number, but there examples out there that we can draw inspiration from.’  What do you think?

Moodle ripped off, should switch to Affero GPLv3

Roberto reports about the Lazio e-Citizen project chose Moodle to deliver courses to educate elderly citizens (age 60 and more) to use computers and Internet, but they don’t say that openly.’  I found it offensive, that AICA and all the other groups involved in the project failed not only to give credit to the Moodle project, but they also created artificial requirements for the solution’  making it look like the training lessons need Windows 2000 or later versions and for the browser: Internet Explorer 6.0 or superior.’  Goodbye browser interoperability, farewell Moodle’s effort to be platform independent.

It’s annoying to realize that Moodle was exploited so radically, it feels like a rip off. To give credit to the developers of the Free Software you use to deliver your services is the least you can and should do.’  You should also contribute back your changes and learn to be a good citizen in the digital world, where freedom must be preserved.’  I think the Affero GPLv3 is a better license for Moodle and other web based software as the best way to protect their asset from such rip off. Funambol wisely chose it immediately and more projects are using it, too.’  Credibility and reputation are between the most important assets for Free Software developers and they should be guarded properly.

Probably, even if Moodle used the AGPLv3, it may have not prevented the Lazio eCitizen project from hiding it under the hood but at least it may have forced them to release back their changes. I suspect we will see more of these misguided/misinformed uses of Free Software in the future. We should get the best legal protection and get ready to educate people to behave correctly.

Give the GNU GPL an ‘A’, as in Affero

The GNU Affero General Public License v3 is now officially an ‘open source’ license, approved by the Open Source Initiative.

Funambol started the approval process of the best license available to protect copyleft, and business based on it, from predatory practices. Fabrizio (Funambol’s CEO) celebrates the sweet victory on his blog mentioning the ‘strange’ coincidence of Google caring only for GPL. For Google the ASP loophole is the key to their business, while they don’t like the A of Affero.

It’s a good day for all the companies that use the AGPLv3. I found some like Wavemaker, OSSDiscovery, Colosa and I wish Palamida started tracking AGPLv3 adoption too (Update: Blackduck Software already tracks AGPLv3 adoption). Here Funambol’s full press release with quote from Wavemaker’s CEO and Eben Moglen.

Update (thanks to Andi Zink):’  Doug Levin’s post contains more software licensed under AGPL.

Affero GNU GPLv3 evaluated by OSI

As Fabrizio reported, Funambol submitted the Affero GNU’  GPLv3 to the Open Source Initiative for approval (it was my first task as Funambol Community Manager).’  OSI’s stamp on AGPLv3 makes business sense for Funambol, afaik the first big free software project to adopt AGPLv3 as soon as it was announced. Open Source is a recognized brand,’  a magnet for media attention and helps drive value to companies.’  Free software business needs a common brand as a marketing tool and OSI provides that.

I still believe that OSI’s refusal to talk about principles is its biggest weakness (even though lately Raymond noted that there are principles behind licenses) and a very dangerous one.’  On the other hand, OSI has no competition (or help) especially after the failure to launch the GNU Business Network by FSFE.

What’s interesting is that Funambol’s management has got the Free/Libre Software principles right.’  As Fabrizio writes:

Big Google, a company that could not stand the ASP loophole because they built their entire business on it, manages to get that provision out of GPL v3 and runs to get it approved by the OSI (BTW, it was approved).

Now it is the Funambol turn. Hoping more people will choose AGPL versus GPL, because giving hosters and portals a free lunch is just a bad idea. If they want to use it for free, at least get their code back.

The market will give the answer about the AGPLv3 adoption, but I’m confident that this year will be fun to be into this community.

Ritorno dal convegno “Open Source come modello di business”

Ieri ho partecipato alla tavola rotonda dopo il convegno Open Source come modello di business da cui sono rientrato poco impressionato: mi sembrava tutto troppo 1.0, già  visto. Non mi hanno impressionato le ricerche presentate da un dottorando di ingegneria, I modelli manageriali dei progetti Open Source e Qualità  e costi del software Open Source. Non so perché, ma davo per scontato che fossero noti i lavori di Rossi e Bonaccorsi (2002), Daffara (COSPA, FLOSSMETRICS), IDABC, UNU-Merit, ecc che “Open Source” non è legato ad un solo modo (distribuito) di sviluppare software, che i repository di SourceForge contengono pochi progetti attivi ed economicamente significativi, che la qualità  del codice è mediamente alta (ma che non ci sono termini di paragone con la qualità  del codice proprietario, essendo questo invisibile) e altro … Pensavo di sentire qualcosa di nuovo almeno dagli USA, invece il professor Anthony I. Wasserman (Executive Director of the Center for Open Source Investigation, Carnegie Mellon West) si è limitato ad un’introduzione generica al tema. Interessante l’intervento di Massimiliano Magi Spinetti di ABI Lab, sui risultati dell’analisi domanda e offerta nel settore bancario. È stato un convegno introduttivo al tema, speriamo che la Fondazione Politecnico ne organizzi presto una nuova edizione con nuovi contenuti. Evidentemente c’è ancora molta comunicazione da fare.

Nel mio breve intervento alla tavola rotonda ho provato a spiegare che il Software Libero o Open Source non è un settore distaccato, non è un mercato diverso. Il settore è lo stesso, quello dello sviluppo software e le regole del business rimangono tutte valide. La differenza la fanno solo le licenze, gli strumenti legali che concedono diritti di uso, studio, modifica e distribuzione ai clienti. Punto. Open Source non è un modello di business ma è una leva strategica a disposizione del management, sia di chi compra che di vende software o servizi. E ho aggiunto che è una leva imprescindibile: nel settore è in atto una disruption, uno sconvolgimento degli equilibri stabiliti destinato a buttare fuori dal mercato tutti gli incumbent (e i fallimenti di Silicon Graphics e SCO o le nuove strategie di IBM e Sun lo dimostrano). Un caso da manuale di innovazione radicale con cui tutti gli attori, domanda e offerta, devono confrontarsi senza esclusione.

Disruptive technology

Per questo alla domanda “cosa possono fare le aziende italiane? L’Open Source può aiutarle?” non potevo che far notare che il FLOSS va valutato obbligatoriamente anche per le aziende italiane, se vogliono sperare di continuare ad esistere. D’accordo con il prof. Fuggetta: molte opportunità  esistono nei sistemi embedded, tutti i sistemi di automazione meccanica, automotive, negli elettrodomestici. Solo con il FLOSS si può sperare di restare sulla curva dell’innovazione e mantenere la speranza di non essere buttati fuori dal mercato.

Update: Andrea Genovese su 7thfloor dà  una visione più ampia del convegno in generale.

Politecnico di Torino launches copyright consulting services

Politecnico di Torino and Regione Piemonte have launced SeLiLi, Servizio Licenze Libere, a service to offer information and consulting services on legal, technological and economical matters regarding copyright licenses. Given the credibility of the Politecnico and in particular to the group that maintains the Creative Commons licenses I think they can do a good job spreading news in Italy.

SeLiLi’s mission includes giving advice on copyright for all kind of creative arts, from graphic arts to software, making its scope wider than that of FSFE’s Freedom Task Force. This, BTW, proves that everybody, for-profits and non-profits, have to face competition. I wish the best to these friends in Torino.