Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

TR: What about services based on open source software?
LEFKOWITZ: I’m a big believer in incremental improvement-what the Japanese call kaizen. In that view of a service ecosystem you continue to reflect on how you can provide the service better and think about what things you could streamline through automation.

TR: How can open source software keep the innovation premium in place-that is make sure the innovators are rewarded for the risk they take?
LEFKOWITZ: That’s a really complicated question, and my answer to it keeps evolving-in part because open source means so many things. Oftentimes if I contribute something to the open source community, it’s because I believe that the value to be derived by contributing exceeds the value of not doing so.

TR: What is an example of that?
LEFKOWITZ: People typically do that if you’re just looking at the code for reasons related to testing and porting and internationalizing. If you want to port the code to 20 different platforms then you need to acquire 20 different platforms to test it. Small developers can’t afford to do that. But if they open source it, other people will do that work.

And then, there’s the secret sauce for which you wish to capture an innovation premium. You can take that open source stuff, add your secret sauce, and create some very nice commercial products. Apple does it. Microsoft did it with ActiveDirectory. The advantage is this: if somebody else then wants to take that same code base, and add a proprietary innovation that you don’t have, they’ll be able to monetize that. It depends on the extent to which you are interested in encouraging a marketplace. Some open source projects, like those based on the GNU General Public License (GPL), are more directed at encouraging the growth of freely available software. Others, like BSD and Apache, are concerned with capturing a financial premium from innovation.

TR: Can you see a future in which open source permeates corporate IT culture? Can open source be a guiding principle in corporate decision-making and strategy?
LEFKOWITZ: A lot of executive suites are focused on collaboration and openness and free exchange of ideas within their companies. They want to encourage their people to learn more, to interact more, to share ideas more within the corporation. Well, for open source companies like Collabnet and Sourceforge, that’s their business-going into companies and selling them the service, using open source tools, or proprietary tools, to help them organize themselves and behave internally the way the open source community behaves among itself. That kind of culture is desirable. People recognize that today.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me