Agassi speaking at the Churchill Club in Silicon Valley explained why he believed that open source wouldn't work as a model for innovation and made the mistake to refer to (at least part) of the open source movement as "intellectual property socialism".
Now Agassi together with SAP's PR department put up a response on the company's website that is presented to suggest that it comes only from Agassi himself. They told me it was prepared by PR, and it also explains the mistake of entering an incorrect date for the event, claiming that it was on Tuesday where in reality it took place on Wednesday.
It isn't often that one of our (vnunet.com's) news stories themselves become news, but this time SAP did just that by claiming that we "got the story wrong and took […] quotes completely out of context."
We disagree, but since SAP is attacking our integrity, vnunet.com no longer can be considered an impartial observer. Listen to Agassi's remarks in mp3 here (the open source
bashing section is at 35:30).
Or read here what some other observers had to say about Agassi's remarks after they read Agassi's posting (and in some cases listened to the mp3 recording).
If we have any regrets about the story, they would be about the headline. As it goes with headlines, they are a simplification and summary of the story. A much more accurate headline would have been "SAP says that open source model in enterprise software is great for bug catching but in practice doesn't deliver much innovations". It wouldn't have fit on the screen and wouldn't have made it past the editor. So when you condense the hell out of it, you come to the admittedly more sexy: "SAP dismisses open source innovation."
But I doubt that would've given SAP a large head ache.
Reading the blog postings where Agassi is flamed for his remarks, they mostly rant about the use of the words "IP socialism". In his blog posting Agassi does little to rebuke the socialism argument, but only waters it down to "extreme socialism", adding that any "extreme" movement usually is bad.
Secondly, Agassi's remarks seemed to act as the fuse in the proverbial barrel of gunpowder that was waiting to go off: the software patent discussion. SAP is a strong proponent of software patents, where the open source community is mostly against it. According to the group that makes this argument, you can't claim that you "love open source" yet lobby in favour of software patents.
The original story touches on several points about SAP and open source:
- Agassi compares the ability to customise open source applications to customize SAP's enterprise applications and notes that SAP's experience shows that long term it creates issues with upgrading and maintenance.
- The trend for SAP to go more towards a "closed box" solution where access to the source code is limited in favour of the creation of application programming interfaces (APIs) (as supported by this Zdnet blog posting)
- Agassi points to the fact that Windows Vista isn't copying features from Linux but rather from OS X, labeling it as the most innovative operating system in the market today.
- Agassi says about the ideals of free open source software that live within (parts of) the open source comminty that "Intellectual property socialism is the worst that can happen to any IP-based society," and claims that it will stifle innovation because developers will be unable to earn back the research funds they invest.
In his blog posting Agassi touches on 4 points:
- the value of having access to the source code (which he calls "openness of source code"), because it allows for customisations
- the value of the swarm of innovators to which SAP accommodates by creating APIs
- the need for a commercial entity to monetize its intellectual property. Here he again leashes out against the "socialize IP ownership"-movement (but as one observer points out, there is no trace of such a movement on the web today)
- the value of open source as a solution for commoditised technology.
I don't see any huge differences, but tell me what you think.
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