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VIA’s unfortuante open source deja vuJay Lyman, May 29, 2008 @ 4:51 pm ET
Deja vu, the experience of experiencing something that you feel you’ve experienced before, hit me while reading about hardware maker VIA and its latest forays and fumbles in open source.
It was with great interest that I’ve been following VIA’s announcement of an open reference design for notebook PCs, known as OpenBook. It was even described by some as an ‘open source notebook design.’ I thought this would be a good move by VIA, which has struggled with its open source strategy in the past. Nevertheless, the company has enjoyed a Linux following over the years and may be among those with the most to gain from Linux success in new form factors, such as netbooks.
However, I got a first dose of deja vu when I saw how limited the reference design was, giving developers and hardware hackers only the outer layer of the laptop. This reminded me of VIA’s history of a limited, restrictive approach to open source developers, projects and input, which have been closed up to an extent by developer agreements, NDAs, etc.
A good summation of the OpenBook specs and process is available from Ryan Paul at Ars Technica. Unfortunately, this account is, again, reminiscent of past VIA open source steps that were more like stumbles. For example, the article points out inconsistencies with VIA’s chosen Creative Commons licensing for the reference design information.
In an update at the end of the article, the author reports clarification from VIA that inclusion of restrictive licensing terms was simply a mistake. This is where I get yet another dose of deja vu and am reminded how the company mistakenly included restrictive license information in the past. This is not the first time VIA has had a hard time with an open approach and taking advantage of open development. The company, and the industry for that matter, should have learned by now. If you call it open, you are best off to truly make it open and free of the strings, catches and addendums that close it back up.
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