What makes open source CEOs different

Open-source CEOs strike me as very technology savvy. Perhaps that's one reason they make good technology?

I don't have any scientific proof of this, but it strikes me that open-source CEOs are different. Not just because some sport ponytails (Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz), or some speak with a light Southern drawl (Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst), or even that some swear in Italian (Funambol CEO Fabrizio Capobianco).

No, what really makes them different, at least as compared to their enterprise software counterparts, is their cutting-edge adoption of technology.

In this they're no different (and probably a bit behind) the Web 2.0 crowd, but compared to an HP, IBM, or SAP CEO, the CEOs of open-source companies set new standards for connectedness and communication transparency. Perhaps it's the relative youth of open-source CEOs, but perhaps it's also a love of technology that stems from having to live so close to source code in an open-source company.

I first thought of this when I received notice that Whitehurst is following me on Twitter. I can't imagine Steve Ballmer following anyone on Twitter. Then I thought to how actively Schwartz blogs, providing useful information on Sun and its place in the larger enterprise computing ecosystem.

It also reminded me that I get text messages as often as emails from Whitehurst, and the same used to be true of Marten Mickos, former CEO of MySQL, as well as others (except Capobianco at Funambol, because his company does email sync, so he's not a big SMS user :-).

Enterprises should take note. I think company leadership has a material impact on the kind of technology that gets created within a technology vendor. If your vendor's CEO is stuck in the Stone Ages of technology, perhaps its products are, too?

This can only be taken so far, of course, but I wonder if there's something to it....

Tech Culture
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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