Two interesting quotes from Scott today — one funny and one probably taken a bit out of context. Both appear in this article — Open source “is free like a puppy is free” says Sun boss in ZDNet UK. Here’s the first one:
“People say, “Tape is kind of boring”. Well, I say go in and tell your customer that you have lost their back-up tapes and you’ll see excitement pretty quickly,” he said.
Ok, just a funny quote but with a serious message. Seems like Scott. I can her him saying it. Seems clear, too. But further down in the article comes another quote that I bet was taken out of context. Here’s that one:
I seriously doubt that open source is on McNealy’s so-called “hit list.” Scott is spending millions on OpenSolaris, and his Solaris engineering teams are out there building the OpenSolaris community and have been doing so for some time now. So why would open source be on his so-called hit list? Makes no sense. Also, the OpenSolaris community will be an open source community, which is stated directly in the last sentence of the paragraph. If open source were on Scott’s so-called hit list, I doubt I’d have a job, too. So, I don’t get the “attack” characterization up front before McNealy’s quote, nor do I get the last sentence in the paragraph written to emphasize a point that wasn’t really supported in the first place. Also, if you take out the “despite” in there the sentence takes on an entirely different tone. Of course, taking out “hit list” and “attacking” and “scathing” further alters the story, too, don’t you think?
So, what’s wrong with McNealy’s actual quote? He’s simply pointing out that from his perspective as CEO open source is not free. He’s right. It takes a strong commitment and significant engineering resources to build and run an open source development project to provide all that “free” code. Most customers who then consume that free code do so through some vendor providing services to support or implement systems based on the code. Isn’t that what Red Hat does? And IBM? And Novell? Sun? Or, if customers have the skills on staff, they do the work themselves. But it all costs something, doesn’t it? Nothing is free in that equation except the access to the source code, which helps enable a community of developers who have the specialized skills to work on the code.
I don’t find anything wrong with McNealy’s 9 word quote. However, I do question the 64 words of commentary characterizing the quote. Don’t you?
UPDATE: 6/9/05: I see that Cnet reprinted the ZDNet story but under the headline, “McNealy touts ‘excitement’ of backup tape.” Pretty much the same story with the same writer but this version has some small changes. For instance, this one says, “Also on the quip list … ” instead of “Next on the hit list … ” Why the edit? There were a couple more edits as well. Then the story crops up yet again on Silicon.com under yet a third headline, though this one is just ridiculous — Sun boss scorches rivals and open source. Scorches? Well, I guess the headline did its job — I read the story. It’s great media PR, no question. But after I read the story and found no substantiation for the headline so I lost respect for Silicon.com. Simple.