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Sun to dangle prize money in front of open-source developers

Vendor plans financial awards program for communities built around its technologies

By Chris Kanaracus
December 4, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Sun Microsystems Inc. on Wednesday will release information about a new financial awards program meant to spur more development activity tied to the company's open-source technology efforts, according to a blog entry posted yesterday by Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open-source officer.

The awards program initially will involve the OpenSolaris, GlassFish, OpenJDK, OpenSparc, NetBeans and OpenOffice.org development communities, according to Phipps.

"We'll be providing a substantial prize purse and working with the communities involved to develop the approach that works best," Phipps wrote. However, he didn't provide any details on how much money will be involved in the program.

A spokeswoman for Sun said that the company will disclose additional information tomorrow. And Phipps wrote that he hopes to be able to provide full detail about the financial awards program during a keynote address on Friday at the FOSS.IN/2007 conference in Bangalore, India.

Detailing the program in his Bangalore speech is a deliberate move on Phipps' part. "I'm announcing it in India because that's where I expect the greatest open-source community growth to come from in the near future," he wrote. "If we can play a part in catalyzing the emergence of India as a key international open-source powerhouse, the effect on the software industry will be huge."

His blog posting follows skeptical comments about the open-source status quo that were made earlier this year by Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software. Green lamented the fact that developers who contribute to various open-source projects go uncompensated while vendors that support the technologies are enriched.

"It really is a worrisome social artifact," Green said at the time. "I think in the long term that this is a worrisome scenario [and] not sustainable. We are looking very closely at compensating people for the work that they do."

Michael Coté, an analyst at RedMonk, an open-source consulting firm based in Denver, said that Sun's move should be a welcome step, from the perspective of open-source developers.

"In the open-source community, you get sort of soft rewards, like respect and a reputation in the overall IT community, and the adoration of your fans," said Coté, who has worked as a developer in the past. "That's great, but it's also great to get cash."

There are established ways for open-source developers to enjoy financial gain, such as being hired by an open-source software vendor or through freelance assignments.

But from an overall standpoint, Coté said, "we haven't figured a way to support the lifestyle of programmers in an open-source world."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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