The Bad Boy of Open Source

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Marc Fleury talks about why he's vilified in certain software circles, and whether he's really putting JBoss on the block

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates may be the most hated man in open-source software circles, but Marc Fleury could come in a close second. As chief executive of JBoss, a company that makes so-called middleware software, which connects disparate programs, Fleury is a pioneer in spawning viable businesses from free software. But he's also alleged to be abrasive, paranoid, controlling, and a credit hog.

Still, whether Fleury's critics want to admit it or not, JBoss is a formidable force. The small company has distinguished itself as a leader in the open-source movement, which is steadily spreading from the popular Linux operating system to include open-source alternatives to nearly every tool companies use to run their businesses. The success of open-source companies like Red Hat (RHAT ), MySQL, and JBoss has made big software companies rethink their businesses, and has spurred the creation of dozens of me-too startups hoping to cash in on the trend.

But it hasn't made Fleury many friends. He chalks that up to jealousy -- and critics could get even more jealous if rumors about his buying JBoss end up up a reality. Oracle (ORCL ) and JBoss were very close to a deal in February and sources say other companies like Red Hat and Novell (NOVL ) have also been taking a look at the company. Fleury talked to BusinessWeek Online reporter Sarah Lacy about life as the bad boy of open source, and the widely held contention that he's shopping his company around. Following are edited excerpts of the conversation.

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