Matt Asay on Open Source


Our own Matt Asay is speaking on on "The Open Source Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." For those of you not up on the Utah high tech scene, Matt is a Stanford Law school grad who once worked for Lineo as the GM of their residential gateway business and now works for Novell. Matt is the host and force behind a series of monthly VC breakfasts that have been happening in Salt Lake City. Matt's talking about open source and his slides are clearly marked with a familiar "red N" logo in the corner. This is generating a little interest among some members of the press who are here.

Matt's is promoting a concept of "both-source" or a middle ground between open-source and close-source community. He points to his experience at Lineo where he saw a constant wave of open-source software moving up the software stack, forcing Lineo to move their value-added innovation further up the chain as well. This is an interesting look at open-source as a driver of innovation, even in companies deriving benefit from closed source code.

Matt's recommendation for public policy toward using open source in government is to avoid legislative solutions and work to develop purchasing models that support open source. There audience was quick to point out that there are some problems here, most notably that open-source doesn't have salespeople and it can't pay a percentage of sale to consultants. I don't see these as insurmountable. If the ROI is truly there, someone ought to be able to win contracts using open source that they can't win using closed source. The economics ought to be able to drive this if public employees can be educated to the fact that open source solutions are acceptable and even preferable.