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Sun offers open-source risk disclaimer

A collaborative programming philosophy and developer freedoms aren't the only Linux features Sun Microsystems emulated when it adopted an open-source development model for its operating system, Solaris.

It also picked up some of the legal baggage. When Red Hat, the top Linux seller, filed to hold its initial public offering, it disclosed some risks related to its open-source software in its legal filings. Among them were reliance on non-employees such as Linux leader Linus Torvalds and software company's possible reluctance to write software not controlled by a single company. (Such risk disclosures are a standard part of regulatory filings and cover a wide spectrum of possible problems.)

Now that Sun has launched the OpenSolaris project, it, too has similar cautions.

As a result of the open-source release, Sun warned in a quarterly report filed Friday, "there could be an impact on revenue related to our Solaris OS, and we may no longer be able to exercise control over some aspects of the future development of the Solaris OS. In addition, the feature set and functionality of the Solaris OS may diverge from those that best serve our strategic objectives, move in directions in which we do not have competitive expertise or fork into multiple, potentially incompatible variations."

Needless to say, Sun thinks the open-source Solaris move is worth the risks as it tries to build developer interest and get customers to try the free version of Unix. The company is betting that this broader sampling will eventually become revenue-generating support contracts.