Sun Microsystems and HP are expected to announce separately today that they will make the projects they currently have under development available to all under the open source model, in the style of the increasingly popular Linux operating system.

The announcements come at the start of the O'Reilly Open Source Convention in California. Sun said it would announce its fourth open source project at the event, its Grid Engine distributed computing software. Distributed computing is what makes the [email protected] and Intel's cancer research program, the Intel Philanthropic Peer-to-Peer Program, work on home computers.

The software is designed to allow large corporations and organisations to link hundreds to thousands of computers together in order to collaborate on large-scale computing projects, basically doing the work of a supercomputer.

HP, meanwhile, said it would make the source code for software related to its CoolTown project available for download under the open source model Monday. CoolTown is a development platform for 'pervasive computing' [see the Future focus feature on CoolTown in the August issue of PC Advisor], a project designed to invent a coherent way to link all manner of devices together over the internet.

Currently under development at HP Labs in California and the UK, CoolTown uses standard bar codes and hardware infrared and radio transceivers HP calls 'beacons' to transmit website addresses to handheld devices or mobile phones. A user can point a handheld at a beacon — or a bar code on a CD, for instance — and connect to a website with related information.

The company will open the source code for the framework of CoolTown, called CoolBase. HP will also open source the code for the CoolTown beacons and the 'taggy' — a sample handheld device that will wirelessly receive information beamed from a beacon.

At least HP is also being open about some of the real reasoning behind this move. "One thing that we really want is for CoolBase to become a standard," Perens said. "Having it open source really helps that."

While a number of major hardware and software vendors are beginning to embrace open source and, more specifically the Linux operating system, the model has been fiercely opposed by the world leader in operating systems, Microsoft.

Perens said HP does not agree with Microsoft's stance that open source will jeopardise the proprietary commercial development process or legally hinder the licensing of software. Microsoft has gone as far as calling open source a cancer.

"Giving people the software and hardware designs that they need... actually helps HP's commercial plans," Perens said. "Certainly we have not given up on proprietary software, but we certainly don't say that Linux is a cancer."