This is corporate open source done the right way. HP has benefited hugely from software freedom, bringing a highly capable and comprehensive product offering to market in a very short time. But unlike "open core" providers where the freedom stops with the vendor, HP seems to be leaving open source's four freedoms intact to benefit customers.
Restructuring around open source
That's why the changes I discovered from Robb and Evans were significant. In the past, the Open Source Program Office at HP has been distant from software product activity. Robb told me his role remains unchanged: coordinating open source engagements internally, representing HP in public activities, and ensuring a consistent approach from the various parts of HP's business that engage open source.
But the move into the legal team, together with the arrival of Evans, both seem to signal change led by HP CEO Meg Whitman. Perhaps because of her experiences using the flexibility and cost control that software freedom delivered to create eBay, Whitman is far more of an advocate of open source than her predecessors. That means Evans and Robb have executive cover to accompany their more central location in the company.
For such a historically conservative company, HP has suffered more than its share of unhappiness. The fall of Mark Hurd followed swiftly by the amazing misappointment of Léo Apotheker and the seemingly random strategic changes he attempted have all dented confidence in HP's survival. While the marketing around HP Cloud wants us to believe the open source story, the way Whitman has overseen the rapid construction of a strong bench for open source leadership gives me far more confidence that there's real change afoot that may actually rescue HP.
This article, "Can open source save HP?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.