Only two months ago, I offered some criticism
of hardware manufacturer VIA’s approach to Linux support, open source
software and working with developers and communities. I also offered
some of its missteps — encumbering developers with complicated
contracts and limiting transparency at the cost of community growth —
as lessons to vendors pondering how to start or continue working with
open source communities and taking advantage cost and speed advantages.
In the interest of fairness and also to continue our study and
lesson of how vendors can successfully interface with developers,
users, partners and others, I am now highlighting some positive open
source developments out of VIA. First, the company has wisely found
itself an open source liason, picking a prominent, popular figure in
Harald Welte, a Linux hacker, GPL enforcer and recipient of the FSF
2007 Award for the Advancement of Free Software. Second, VIA is providing
programming guides for a security engine and some chipsets. The best
part is, the code and data is available for download without VIA’s
previous developer agreements or NDAs.
Hiring an open source software development and community expert such as Harald Welte, establishing its own Linux Portal
and releasing source code, drivers and programming guides without
non-disclosure strings finally puts VIA on the path to rewards from
open source. This does not mean the company is guaranteed efficiency,
development or competitive advantages from open source, but it
certainly means VIA will be getting more than ridicule and doubt from open source developers and supporters.
The move also comes as a number of hardware and open source opportunities begin to emerge, such as netbooks, which was enough
for Linux vendor Xandros to acquire fellow Linux seller Linspire for an
undisclosed amount earlier this month. VIA may soon have a lot more to
gain from supporting Linux and open source software, and the company
now seems to be recognizing this.