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Thu 9 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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US firms accused over open source

The head of software technologies at the EU Commission's Information Society and Media Directorate General has attacked major US firms, accusing them of exerting too much influence on the progress of the open-source community.

The head of software technologies at the EU Commission's Information Society and Media Directorate General has attacked major US firms, accusing them of exerting too much influence on the progress of the open-source community.

Speaking in Amsterdam at a conference on open software, Jesús Villasante, said that big companies such as IBM, HP and Sun are just using the open-source community as subcontractors rather than encouraging the community to develop independent commercial products. These big companies are not encouraging the open source community to develop commercial projects. Instead, businesses simply offer open source products under their brand name, Villasante said.

"Open source is a complete mess - many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today," Villasante said.When customers want to invest in open source, it is always IBM or Sun or HP open source, asserted Villasante, speaking at a debate on open-source innovation at the Holland Open Software Conference.

"Companies are using the potential of communities as subcontractors - the open-source community today (is a) subcontractor of American multinationals," added Villasante, who called on the open-source community to develop more independence from these large companies."Open-source communities need to take themselves seriously and realise they have made a contribution to themselves and society. From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction," Villasante said.

Experts have previously argued that major corporations such as IBM have made a valuable contribution by supporting open-source software, as they have helped to persuade businesses and IT professionals that open-source software is a credible alternative to proprietary options.

However Villasante seems adamant to discount such expert opinion that major companies have offered support to the open source community. Villasante ‘s view is that businesses have been reluctant to adopt projects unsupported by a formal company, as having IBM or Sun backing a project can give it more perceived credibility.

Villasante's comments seem to have startled fellow panelists at the conference, including James Baty, chief architect of Sun ONE Consulting. Baty did not respond directly to Villasante's comments, but he did say that companies such as his have a responsibility to contribute to the open-source community.

"There are companies that are takers from the open-source community, other companies are taking the attitude that they have to contribute," Baty said. "(Open source) should be seen as an opportunity, not as something to capture and abuse," he added.

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