Linux lab cuts staff, focuses on legal issues

By Stephen Shankland, Staff Writer

December 4, 2006

Open Source Development Labs, an industry-funded consortium, has cut a third of its staff, lost its chief executive and scaled back some technical work.

CEO Stuart Cohen resigned to pursue opportunities with higher-level open-source software, and nine employees in technical and administrative roles lost their jobs, said Mike Temple, OSDL's chief operating officer and its new leader. That leaves a staff of 19, including Tom Hanrahan in charge of engineering, Diane Peters in charge of legal work, and top Linux programmers Linus Torvalds and Andrew Morton.

The lab's board concluded that a modified mission was appropriate because Linux is now mainstream, and companies have become adept on their own at some of the collaborative work OSDL was founded to oversee, Temple said Monday. The group is funded by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, Intel and several other computing companies.

OSDL's middleman role--connecting customer requirements, computing-company resources and developers--remains unchanged, Temple said. "We will be a catalyst among those three, to bring them together, solve problems and create the code," Temple said.

Funding freed up through the layoffs is set to go toward legal work, which the group's members have found valuable, Temple added. The group either will contract with legal professionals or hire a staff attorney, he said.

In technical matters, the organization will stop focusing on projects defining broad categories of Linux--earlier examples including efforts for high-end servers, telecommunications gear, mobile phones and desktop computers. Instead, engineering work will emphasize narrower efforts to find areas where new software needs to be written.

Cohen's resignation as CEO was coincidental and independent of the other changes at OSDL, Temple said.

Cohen is looking at opportunities in encouraging collaboration among companies to produce higher-level open-source software. He said he's had discussions with companies in financial services, insurance and health care.

"Companies can work together to form a community, to work together to develop the application software at a much lower cost," Cohen said.

Copyright 2006