Squandering one of the industry's best open source talents [Updated]

Miguel de Icaza can do more.

Before you read this, you should read this . I regretted this post shortly after posting it.


I think Miguel de Icaza is an exceptional developer. He's also a fantastically effective community leader. And, though he's never displayed his best side to me, personally, I understand that he's a quality person that people like to be around.

For these reasons I can't help but wonder why he's squandering his talents on writing largely irrelevant code (Mono, Moonlight) that appeals to himself, Novell, Microsoft, and no one else.

It's not that Microsoft is a bad company. It's that Miguel could be doing so much more for the industry if he stopped cloning the Microsoft experience on Linux and instead drove forward the Linux/open source experience. Sam Varghese writes:

For a long time de Icaza, who is now on the staff of Novell, appears to have been trying to please the people at Redmond. First it was with Mono, his implementation of Microsoft's .NET development environment.

Next, when Microsoft came up with something called Silverlight - which it hopes to push as a competitor to Adobe's Flash - de Icaza developed a clone called Moonlight and took it to one of the senior executives at Microsoft, Bob Muglia, for his approval.

Reading through mailing lists where de Icaza exchanges opinions with FOSS icons like Richard Stallman and Alan Cox, one can only marvel at his obstinacy.

He just refuses to believe that Microsoft has ulterior motives in anything it does in the field of interoperability - despite there being plenty of evidence to prove this.

Miguel says that he's doing this to bring the proprietary world into the open-source camp. It's not working, Miguel. You don't convince by capitulating. You convince by winning, though I'd like to think that open source can win on its own terms - terms that include collaboration and a non-zero sum game.

You, personally, would convince more by going back to the innovation in GNOME that originally made you one of the most interesting developers on the planet. I want the old Miguel (and Nat - where has Nat Friedman been?) back, the one who demo'd Nat's Dashboard with Nat at OSCON. The one who led and pushed GNOME forward for so many years.

The one who still has the potential to turn the industry on its head. But not by being Microsoft's best friend. Nor by being its acrid enemy.

Rather, Miguel de Icaza can turn the industry on its head by putting his knowledge of interoperability and open source to work on developing the next-generation desktop (and not by recreating the "best" of Microsoft on Linux). It's not worth much to you, Miguel, but I think highly of your talents. That's why I'd like to ask you to get back to innovation, not the somewhat futile (meaning, few to no real customers will use it) Microsoft clone-ware you've been engaged in.

Do this, and your employer, Novell, will become a significant player again. Standing on the shoulders of giants to innovate beyond them, rather than licking the toejam of giants to replicate their past.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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