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Sun gives free access to Solaris 8 source, strings attached

But the company is not pretending Solaris is Linux

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Sun has set itself up for some more brickbats from the open source world by opening up access to source code and giving away - sort of - the latest version of Solaris, Solaris 8. The move will inevitably be seen as a bid to steal Linux's clothes, and equally inevitably will be sneered at because it doesn't even come near making Solaris open source. But as we've said before around these parts, Sun is a smart enough company to know it couldn't get away with either of these. And frankly, viewing the company's every move as a 'get Linux' plan is excessively Linocentric. In today's announcement Sun does not say that it is making Solaris open - the 'O' word does not appear at all in the release. The company does say that it's giving "free access to the Solaris source and end-user binary code," and it also says it will no longer charge a licence fee for the use of runtime software on systems with eight processors or fewer. It will charge $75 for the cost of media, but that's it. This is obviously a substantial change in the way Sun does business, but it's equally obviously not open source, and nor is it meant as such. Sun describes the price move as being in line with its strategy of shifting to a fee-based service model, and intends to make money from the software via a new set of Solaris 8 service and support programmes. The switch to a service model is the fashion de nos jours, so the move makes general sense. Meanwhile the free access to source Sun is offering is perfectly in accord with the company's previously stated policies. It wants, for perfectly rational and not entirely altruistic reasons, to encourage a broader range of developers to work with its code, but at the same time it insists on its right to control that code's ultimate form. So anybody making modifications to Sun's source will have to clear them with Sun, and if they sell the final product to anyone, then they're going to have to pay Sun a licence fee. This is what Sun thinks. Sun does not think, and never has thought, that the open source model is appropriate for Sun, so it's really no surprise when Sun's new liberalised licensing model turns out not to look like an open source one. The latest moves can in some senses be classed as defensive against potential Linux incursions into Sun's space, but there's no justification for viewing them as an attempt by the company to out-Linux Linux, or to pretend that Solaris is the equivalent of Linux. Sun never said it was. ® See also: StarOffice chief: why Sun community source beats GPL

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