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October 12, 2006

So much for IBM's commitment to open source

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This blog is built on a design by a great guy in the UK, Steve Castledine. Steve created this design to fill the need that users of Lotus Notes/Domino (such as IPI) had for a blogging system. There really wasn't a Lotus Domino method of blogging until Steve designed his. Steve has been a terrific supporter of his platform as well as a great designer of software.

Steve did such a great job that IBM hired him and acquired his blog design, and within the last few days IBM has released Steve's blog template along with the new release of Lotus Domino version 7.

Well, now that Domino 7 is out, Steve has had to go to some effort to explain to all of us who have been using his design for several years now that our existing blogs are incompatible with the new template from IBM.

Why? Read this document. IBM has stripped out several features that Steve built into his blog simply because they utilized open source code.

IBM has removed several features from Steve's original design, in some cases due to simplification, but in several cases simply because they utilized open source code.

Now, this is not a criticism of Steve, or of the Lotus Domino/Notes platform.

And it's not really a criticism of IBM, or of IBM's strategic use of open source. But it's a compelling illustration, I think, of the fact that IBM is only going to use open source where IBM deems it strategically useful for competitive purposes (i.e., to compete with Microsoft).

But to all the activists who are continually trumpeting about how IBM has embraced open source software, well, guys, it's not quite as ideological as you would like people to think. Most of IBM's code is proprietary, especially the stuff they think they can make money at, such as Websphere. If you really look at IBM's products, they are going with open source in those cases where they think they can't win the competition with Microsoft.

The fact is that IBM is always going to choose proprietary code unless they think somehow that, in a particular application, going open source gives them some competitive advantage. And they are going to dodge open source whenever they can, because open source development is apparently NOT as risk-free as the open source advocates would have us all think.

The fact is that Steve's template had open source code in it, and the features worked perfectly well, but IBM took them out and either left the features out or replaced them with proprietary code. And I think that's interesting.

Is it possible that open source code actually poses more risk to companies in some cases than does proprietary code? So they take it out if at all possible?

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