In my recent research I ran into a press release by the Collaborative Software Initiative (CSI), covered here by ZDNet. The recently funded CSI will hire a core team of developers to work on projects for multiple companies. The idea is to take a defined problem or system specification, and develop a product that addresses it. Companies who want the software will subsidize the development costs.
CSI, started by Stuart Cohen, the former CEO of the Open Source Development labs, is all about collaboration, but with a twist. The development process will be one using paid developers, and managed by paid management staff. Collaboration comes into play in a couple of ways. First, companies collaborate to fund a project (through CSI) to develop a software product these companies want. By collaborating through CSI, the per-company cost of the development will be significantly less than if it were developed internally. There is also an intended collaboration with a trade association. This is meant to ensure that the software developed complies with documented requirements and definitions already in place. Finally, the collaborating companies may make internal development staff available to work on the project through CSI management.
Interestingly, there is no guarantee that once developed, the software will be available under an Open Source license agreement. Rather, the software will be relicensed based on the wishes of the collaborating companies.
All of this is very interesting. It captures the spirit of collaboration at the center of open source development while bringing the strict process control of proprietary development to bear. While there are some details of this initiative that may not meet with the approval of ideologues on either side of the divide, it is nonetheless a creative combination of open and closed source development. I’m looking forward to following this company and seeing how well they can implement their vision.