There is a conversation brewing in the blogsphere on the topic of when a company can be called ‘open source’. Nat Torkington of O’Reilly seems to have started the discussion as he attempts to build the agenda for OSCON. Allison Randal and Matt Assay have also chimed in.
IMHO, the term ‘open source company’ is very misleading and is hurting the spirit of the open source. Companies like Alfresco, EnterpriseDB are software companies just like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle etc. They all act like software companies; they have profit motives, shareholders, investors, customers, competitors, developer communities, support teams, etc. They also can go public, bankrupt or get acquired. There is nothing wrong this either.
However, it really does seem that some companies are trying to cloak themselves by creating the term ‘an open source company. I find this disingenuous and in the long-term damaging to the term ‘open source’. Open source is how software gets developed and licensed, not a marketing term to create a category of companies.