Schwartz: Participation Age, take three

Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz is working hard to firmly lodge his latest term, the Participation Age, in computer industry minds.

He introduced the idea at a speech at the Open Source Business Conference in April, scooping his own keynote address by posting the Participation Age ideas on his blog. Two more Schwartz blog entries since then also have been devoted to the idea.

In his most recent entry, Schwartz said coverage of his talk was "more inflammatory than the speech" itself. Perhaps: CNET News.com's piece about his speech focused on Schwartz's criticisms of the General Public License (GPL) without mentioning the Participation Age idea. Forgive us. Most reporters who have covered open-source software for a few years have had ample exposure to the idea that better software can be built through collaboration, standards, openness, zero cost and an engaged developer community.

To be fair, though, Sun's open-source rhetoric deserves some attention. The company is trying to leapfrog much of the competition--think IBM, Oracle, BEA Systems, Veritas and Microsoft--with a more-open-than-thou strategy. Though much of Sun's software remains closed or proprietary, the company has pledged open-source Solaris this quarter and Java Enterprise System server software eventually.

As a foundation for the Participation Age, Schwartz offers the company's Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL), a variation of the Mozilla Public License (MPL). And he reiterated his criticisms of the GPL.

Those criticisms didn't sit well with some. But Schwartz said even getting raked over the coals is progress in his effort to build awareness for Sun's principles. It's a good thing for Schwartz that his company's strategy is to try inject to inject itself into industry debates: he appears to love few things more than a good argument.

"Competition--if only in the marketplace for ideas--is way more interesting than having everyone stand around and agree with one another," he said.

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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