I read this InfoWorld article and my reaction was, “Well, Duh!”. The quick recap... Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst was lamenting the fact at the Open Source Business Conference that enterprise IT departments do not seem to contribute back to the open source software that they are more than willing to deploy and use for free (i.e., they are not buying support).
I only read his comments, so I can’t comment on the tone he used to deliver that observation, but to have expected anything different seems to be near delusional. Corporations, predominately, look at software development as a necessary evil and one that they really wish they could do without. There are exceptions to the rule, but that is the attitude of the majority of companies I interact with. The huge shift to offshore development is just one example of how they want to minimize the costs associated with software dev.
If a company feels that way bout developing software for their own bottom line, why is it surprising that they are not contributing back to open source software? It has been my experience that few if any companies even look at the code behind open software, much less modify it. This is more true with things like Linux, but it applies to other solutions as well. If I managed an IT department, contributing back would be low on my list of priorities, as well. When the CIO/CFO/CEO comes to me and asks to show the RIO for the work my developers are doing, it will be a heck of lot easier to show that for software supporting in-house systems than work that goes back into the open source community.
Maybe it is just me, but I don’t find the lack of corporate participation all that surprising.