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Linux, business, and how the two relate seems to be the theme for the week. Here are some interesting developments.
IBM is reconsidering releasing a free version of DB2 for Linux, see this Computer Reseller News article for more. The problem is an interesting one: they have received "overwhelming interest from the corporate market." The expected consumers of DB2 were students, hobbyists, and so on - people who are relatively unlikely to want to pay "enterprise database" prices. Instead all these companies, which presumably have money, were showing up.
IBM's experience thus closely parallels that of Informix, which also found itself surprised by the amount of corporate interest in its products on Linux. Linux's image no longer entirely matches the reality of its user base. Expect to see even more companies showing up on our doorstep once people begin to figure this out. 1999 is indeed going to be an interesting year.
Then there is the case of Creative Labs, their "SoundBlaster Live" card, and Linux. Questions have circulated for a while as to whether this card would be supported under Linux. Until recently the answer was a clear "no." Creative has not released any sort of programming information for this card, so drivers can not be written. The reasoning behind this is unclear. On January 8 Creative sent a note claiming that they were under nondisclosure to EMU, who provides a chip for the SB Live, and thus Creative couldn't release programming information. That excuse might have held water, except for the fact that Creative owns EMU, and thus should be able to find a way around such problems.
Creative followed that one with another notesaying flat out that "Creative has no plans of releasing its intellectual property to the general public.." They did state that a Linux driver would eventually appear.
The tone moderated somewhat with a later message saying, instead "Creative is not unwilling to provide programming information, there simply isn't any because it hasn't been written." This posting came out at about the same time that Creative put out this job posting, wherein they seek a Linux device driver writer. It seemed that Linux support was of interest after all.
LWN had a brief conversation with Jacob Hawley of Creative. He tells us that they have not worked out what the licensing will be for the Linux drivers they write. He fears that the GPL is incompatible with some of their other software products, and is looking at perhaps a variant of the Mozilla license. Meanwhile some sort of binary-only driver for the SB Live card is probably the first thing that Linux users will see.
It is all in flux currently, but it appears that Creative is trying to come to terms with Linux and to find a way to do the right thing. Another company is waking up. For now the thing to do is to try to encourage them gently and not flame Creative further.
The Bazaar has run into serious difficulties. The Bazaar, of course, is a conference to be held in New York in March; it is styled as a gathering of free software developers and users. The Bazaar's problems, as spelled out in this Slashdot article, stem from their temporal proximity to the LinuxWorld Expo conference. The latter, run by IDG, has pretty well emptied out the pool of possible exhibitors for anything else. Thus a volunteer-run conference in the spirit of free software gets run out by well-funded big business competition.
It's unlikely that IDG has any ill will toward The Bazaar; they probably hardly know that it exists. But their impact is being felt nonetheless. We will likely see more of this sort of thing in the future.
Meanwhile, it appears from the Slashdot article that The Bazaar has found a benefactor who wants to help make it a success. That is certainly encouraging.
January 14, 1999