Tag Archives: Jonathan Schwartz

Corporate Bloggers

The two best blog posts by CEOs this year were posted within 24 hours of each other.

On June 13, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz wrote “An OpenSolaris/Linux Mashup.”
The day before, Enterra CEO Steve DeAngelis penned “The Tension Between Creativity and Efficiency.”

The posts are admirable for the same reason: they take serious criticism of the basic philosophy of a company head-on.

Other corporations, both companies in the past and companies living in the past, would either ignore these barbs or wrap them in P.R. nothingness. Both Jonathan and Steve realized, however, that many of their customers read the critiques, and even more thought similar things themselves. They responded seriously, acknowledged real drawbacks, and contributed to the discussion.

What’s especially interesting about Steve’s writing is that it represents an improvement or what he wrote earlier. Last year, I criticized Steve for writing:

that resilience can’t be developed sector by sector. It must be developed holistically, with challenges in each sector attacked simultaneously. Otherwise, advances in one sector are canceled out by setbacks in others.

On June 12th’s post, he writes:

There have been (and will continue to be) managerial fads — the next big thing — but leaders need to remember that these are tools that must be applied correctly. The adage — if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail — applies in business as it does elsewhere. You need to fill your kit with more than a single tool.

Indeed. No tool (and, of course, Enterra Solutions’ services are a tool) is appropriate everywhere. Schwartz makes a similar point, acknowledging areas where Linux’s technologies are better than what Sun could make in house.

Of course, the real questions still remain: Can Sun’s OpenSolaris really displace Linux? Can Enterra’s “ruleset automation” really cut through tangled regulations?

I don’t know these answers — right now, no one does. But honest communications with customers through blogs is increasingly part of the answer.

I suspect online discussions, such as ZenPundit‘s, are a part as well.

Jonathan Schwartz Actually Sane, Nuanced

I’m John Kerry,” by Rx, Dick is a Killer, track 9, http://www.thepartyparty.com/.

Scare Tactics in the World of Open Source,” by Jonathan Schwartz, Jonathan’s Weblog, 4 April 2005, http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jonathan/20050315#disinformation_about_open_source.

The Participation Age,” by Jonath Schwartz, Jonathan’s Weblog, 4 April 2005, http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jonathan/20050404#inevitability.

Now I know that there are those who criticize me
for seeing complexities
And I do
Because some issues just aren’t all that simple

I’m John Kerry may be the acceptence speech that the Senator should have given, but the above lines also work for Sun’s Schwartz. Earlier I criticized him for managed economy neomercantilism. In response a kind commenter asked me to read his blog. I did, and my verdict is Jonathan Schwartz is a smart and mostly wrong.

He is wrong on software patents. He is wrong on Java. And he is right on the economics of free software.

First, software patents

Over the course of our conversation, [another executive]e started telling me about his efforts to encourage his portfolio companies to lobby governments to bring software patents to an end. What? Until then, my view on the elimination of software patents was that the vanguard of that position were those without the ability or wherewithal to fight against established patent aggressors. Those who could honestly look at the confusion the US has created around the proliferation of spurious patents, who sought to help others defend against potential inequity – while they built their own value.

But I’m confident an accomplished Silicon Valley VC wasn’t the sympathetic constituency the European Union had in mind when it recently considered the reformation – and elimination – of software patents. Asking fledgling nations without software patent portfolios to forego the creation of defensible IP – while the wealthiest nation on earth keeps its powder dry – doesn’t seem equitable or desirable. At best, the view that patents should be eliminated for everyone but the US is misguided – at worst, it’s a truly cynical attempt to magnify inequities rather than destroy them.

Schwartz misses the point. First, he is talking about software patents specifically, not patents generally. Second, the EU’s attempt to restore pre-1990s rules on patents is an attempt to get the US to go back as well. It is an attempt to get them abolished worldwide. Jonathan misrepresents the movement.

And having said it before, let me say it again. I believe in IP. I believe in its value, both economic and social. I believe it should be protected, as any other property, as a means of fostering independence, investment and autonomy. And not just in wealthy nations – but in those struggling to build wealth or pay down debt. I believe the creation, protection and evolution of intellectual property can accelerate everyone’s ability to participate in an open network.

Intellecual property is not just another kind of property. It is artificial. The Constitution proclaims

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Unlike property, which is protected from seizure by the Constitution, the founding document of the United States shows that “intellectual property” is a fiction to improve the general welfare.

But occasionally he’s right

That same day, Dan [Rosensweig, President of Yahoo!] had posted absolutely incredible performance at Yahoo!, delivering their first billion dollar year (in earnings, not revenue, earnings). Which gave me the perfect backdrop for my answer.

“Last I checked, Yahoo! was free.. But with a billion in earnings, Dan, has anyone ever accused you of being a communist?” Dan said “Nope.”

In my view, the economics of free and open source software are identical to the economics of free search, TV, radio, checking accounts or mobile phones – the money’s not in the access to the product, it’s in the services and value delivered around the product. he vendors of those products have a huge interest in eliminating the divide between them and their customers, one typically based on price – as a means of enabling higher value opportunities. It’s a basic concept, and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know my views on how networks and subscriptions (whether to handsets, software updates, roadside emergency services or sell-side analyst reports), over the longer term, can change price and value equations for businesses that know how to exploit them.

Right on. Microsoft and others often occuse open source proponents of being closet Communists. His willingness to honestly debate the measure is refreshing.

So he’s not actually insane. But he’s still wrong. Mostly.

Barns, not Bits, for Developing Countries (Sun Actually Insane)

Sun criticizes popular open-source license,” by Stephen Shankland, CNET News.com, 5 April 2005 (from Slashdot).

Corporate nonsense followed by some commentary

Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz on Tuesday proclaimed ardent support for the open-source software realm but criticized the General Public License, a widely used foundation of the programming movement.

The GPL governs Linux and countless other projects in the free and open-source software arena. But a key tenet of the license creates a situation that amounts to economic imperialism, Schwartz argued at the Open Source Business Conference here

Economies and nations need intellectual property (IP) to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. I’ve talked to developing nations, representatives from academia and manufacturing companies that had begun to incorporate GPL software into their products, then…found they had an obligation to deliver their IP back into the world,” Schwartz said.

The GPL purports to have freedom at its core, but it imposes on its users “a rather predatory obligation to disgorge all their IP back to the wealthiest nation in the world,” the United States, where the GPL originated, Schwartz said. “If you look at the difference between the license we elected to use and GPL, there are no obligations to economies or universities or manufacturers that take the source code and embed it in (their own) code

“Open Source” software development is a collaborative way of writing software. It finds its roots in IBM’s early philosophy towards software and is often used today. In open source, anyone can change a computer program, but then they have to share those changes with anybody. Open source products are typically free. Tivo, parts of new Apple computers, and many popular internet tools are made with open source software. In contrast, other types of software development don’t let other developers modify programs like that. Open source is not perfect, but it is a pretty good idea that has real popularity.

The GPL is a legal document that many open source projects use. It uses legal language that can stand up in court to extend the open source movement. But the important part is this…

Schwart’s statement makes no sense. Developing software requires a massive national infrastructure. Money needs to be poured into education and human capital before a country can have a significant software industry. Every country consumes software, but almost no countries produce it.

For Schwartz to say that open source is “imperialistic” is amoral, at best. Saying that free software is bad because it hurts software makers is like saying the Sun is bad because it harms lightbulb makers. Worse, saying free software is bad because it prevents the emergence of Gap software makers is like saying the Sun is bad, because one day Siemens may open a lightbulb factory in Nairobi.

Developing world economic gap must be based on real economics, not Schwartz’s neo-managed-economy dreams. End Agriwelfare to help end world poverty. Don’t turn to deluded mercantilism.

Update: Blind Man’s Eye sees Schwartz’s statement as a diversion from the bigger problem of patent reform. Did I play into Sun’s plans?

Cobuyitaphobia Blogosphere

Accessibility & transparency: should Carly have blogged?,” by Debby Weil, BlogWrite for CEOs, http://blogwrite.blogs.com/blogwrite/2005/02/accessibility_t.html, 10 February 2005 (from The PubSub Pulse).

Debby Weil wonders if HP’s Carly Fiorina would still have a job if she was a blogger

Yesterday’s abrupt news that Carly Fiorina was ousted as CEO of H-P got me to thinking… should Carly have had a blog? BTW, the link on Carly’s name goes to the bio page on H-P’s site where the copy has already been changed to “Former Chairman and CEO.” Don’t write off the blogging idea as ridiculous. Consider…

An Internal Blog
If Carly had had an internal blog (i.e. behind H-P’s firewall and not for public viewing), she might have been able to warm up her apparently chilly and/or distant relationship with many H-P employees. Maybe she could have reestablished some of the collegiality that defined H-P’s culture not so long ago. She might have titled her internal blog “Dateline Carly…” and doled out choice anecdotes about her constant travelling. Maybe she could have blogged about how wonderful it was to fly on the corporate jet and how much she appreciated it. I bet they had great snacks on the plane. Did she have a real bed? She might have shown a photo of it. People *love* this kind of detail, especially when it’s divulged by a celebrity… and it’s pretty harmless info.

The post goes on to compare her to Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz, who does blog.

Of course, there’s still the little matter of the huge publicly traded companies she ruined