The high priests of free software have congregated at Google Inc. (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) headquarters this week to debate the future of the movement and face down recent patent threats by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research).
Leading names of Linux, the world's biggest grassroots software phenomenon, are spending three days to Friday debating whether an increasingly commercial open source community should fight or ignore the world's largest software maker.
Dressed in the alternative software movement's casual uniform of T-shirts and jeans, the group is coming to grips with internal divisions that sap at its success -- Linux is now used to power desktop computers, major Web sites, mobile phones -- since rival factions often create very similar products.
But as many of the world's top tech companies and corporate customers demand ever more from Linux, open source devotees still fight among themselves with the fervor of a tiny monastic order seeking to root out theological error in their midst.
"Guys: Be seekers of truth, not finders of contradiction," Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, organizer of the event, only half-jokingly told the 150 attendees of what is billed their "Collaboration Summit."