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Open Group goes open source

The group, goaded by open-source advocates and those within its own ranks, is looking to improve its street cred in the world of open source and open standards.

The Open Group, goaded by open-source advocates and from within its ranks, has begun a drive to improve its street cred in the world of open source and open standards.

The San Francisco-based company, a trade association and publisher that does certification for Unix and other technologies, published a draft policy calling for the group to newly embrace open source and open standards and acknowledging that until now, it has not lived up to its name.

"As an organization we must catch up," said the Open Group's draft policy, written by open-source gadfly Bruce Perens. "We couldn't have known that open source would be this successful, and it brings profound changes to our main areas of practice: open systems and standards. We must now fully integrate open source into our operation. If not, it's time to change the name of our organization."

The Open Group represents more than 200 organizations and is just shy of 4,000 active individual participants. It performs certification for Unix, for the Free Standards Group's Linux Standards Base (LSB), for the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) and for other technologies. It also maintains an "advanced research and innovation group" in Boston devoted to improving resilience and robustness in computer systems.

The group already has significant involvement in open-source technologies. It hosts, manages and coordinates some open-source projects, for example, the management software called Pegasus. Last month, the group conducted a seminar on open-source software. The company's working group on open source in corporations is writing "The Managers Guide to Open Source," which the Open Group will publish later this year.

In May 2000, the Open Group put into open-source development the Motif Graphical User Interface (GUI) toolkit--for use primarily with Unix systems.

But the year 2000 may have been a few years too late.

In announcing the draft policy, Perens noted that the Open Group hasn't enjoyed the best repute among open-source developers. Those frosty relations are the result of the Open Group's management of Motif, which stayed proprietary for so long, according to Perens, that it spurred the creation of GNOME (GNU Object Model Environment) and KDE (the K Desktop Environment), alternate open-source systems with graphical interfaces for use with Unix and its popular open-source variant, Linux.

The Open Group said it was stepping up its attention to open source in response to member demand.

"One of the things we discovered is that our members are very interested in open source and how it's going to impact their business," Graham Bird, the Open Group's vice president of marketing, said in an interview. "This came out of a member-driven initiative wanting to know, 'Where is this going to go? How is it going to affect us?'"

The Open Group claims significant intellectual property holdings including the Unix trademark and the Single Unix Specification (SUS). The company offers a certification for conformance with the SUS and has sued members, including Apple Computer, for marketing its products using the Unix name without seeking that certification.

The Open Group is soliciting comment on the draft policy over the next few weeks before implementing the strategy.