The Whole Marc Fleury Phenomenon
Marc Fleury, as you probably know, was the original founder of the JBOSS project, an open source J2EE alternative that has taken off like wildfire. He's also got a straight-shooter style that's sometimes off the chain, or goes too far. But lately I've liked some of things he's said. Well, in recent news all over the web, JBOSS has just been snapped up by RedHat. This is remarkable in two different avenues. It's remarkable that Marc Fleury made a such a monstrously huge success out of giving away software and charging for support. It's also remarkable that Marc Fleury ripped on Red Hat for quite awhile (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04/10/fleury_redhat_critic/) and now is snatched up by them.
His story is interesting. He used to work for Sun. He left and formed a dot bomb startup that never went anywhere and drove him to bankruptcy in California. I'm sure the tension with his wife was already intense at that time, but then he did the even more astounding thing of moving himself, his wife and daughter, into his wife's home, and then tell her, (paraphrasing) "I'm going to write a whole mess of software, but then turn around and charge for tech support." I'm sure she went ape on him over this. How could he just turn around and do that on the brink of bankruptcy? His wife, an article says, even gave him an ultimatum that he earn at least $80K that year or else. And boldly he sallied forth against that windmill until it became a reality. In the first year, he had a 1.0 release and had already earned $100K from the tech support of it! Up until about a week ago, his company I think was worth about $200M, had about 50 employees, and he owned about 50% of the stock in it.
Marc's personality is also wildly unconventional and the press seems to insist that he's hippocritical, even quoting him telling in one breath to his employees that they should share their ideas, but then snapping at one for sharing ideas that could potentially hurt the company. The press also seem to think that he's ruffled the feathers of many in the FLOSS community by his straight-shooting style. He has been vocal, and I think rightly so, against RedHat's proprietary nature, as the link above explains.
However, the news I read today that RedHat is going to purchase JBOSS for $350M is startling news. Either Marc is going to turn RH inside out and everyone wins, or RH reforms Marc (slim chance), or RH kicks Marc out (likely). Marc can take his golden parachute, however, and float away happily. Or, perhaps RH just includes JBOSS and nothing else happens with RH's proprietary nature.
The whole reason I'm on Ubuntu is because of RH's nature. I didn't like to have my distro hostage after a year, forced to pay for a subscription update. I also didn't like the alpha and beta nature of Fedora. Updates were also a pain. Ubuntu solved all that for me. Ubuntu was innovative, cutting edge, user-friendly, and yet remarkably stable. Updates would be promised to be free and a snap to install. The wiki community that supported it was not so prone to RTFM as much as the RH crowd was. I was so pleased with Ubuntu and it's business model that I floated them about $100 in donation money to help keep their company going. If RH had done the things that Ubuntu had done, then they would have had my cash and my interest, instead.