The former head of Open Source Development Labs has launched a new company that will take the principles of open source development and use them to build common applications that can be shared among industry competitors.

Collaborative Software Initiative (CSI) is the brain child of Stuart Cohen, who left the non-profit Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) in January after it merged with the Free Standards Group to form the Linux Foundation. The foundation is focused solely on the Linux operating system, but Cohen wanted to explore open source applications.

While CSI's application development model borrows heavily from the open source model, the company is a for-profit venture that will develop applications collaboratively with groups of companies and then offer code maintenance and support.

Cohen plans to develop non-competitive applications that all companies in a particular vertical industry would need to support their business and then provide the code to those businesses and publish it as open source.

"We think over time this is the way more and more software gets developed," Cohen says. CSI plans to start with projects that take less than a year to develop and less than $2 million to complete.

CSI will offer service and support and is working with partners like HP, IBM and Novell to include the code with their hardware or software much the same way Novell integrated OpenOffice into its Linux desktop operating system.

CSI's first target is financial services, including a compliance and regulatory application it plans to unveil soon. The company also plans to target the retail, insurance and government sectors.

The model is to bring together a group of companies that will pool their financial resources and subject matter experts to scope an application. CSI will write the code, turn it over to the companies and publish it as open source.

The target will be applications not deemed to be strategic to any one business.

"So we are going to provide the venue for this collaborative software development and the support that companies want. People like the open source model and methodology, but they want to know someone is there when the code breaks. They want one throat to choke."

Cohen says that CSI is not concerned that companies will pick up the open source code and ignore the service and support CSI offers.

"History has proven that companies want support, but as they get more and more comfortable with it you see them transition to open source only approach," he says.

"Over time customers that use the software their IT pros will become members of the development community [around each application] and then the development community gets bigger than just our employees."