Ubuntu a Concern?

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2008-09-08 Print this article Print


Microsoft has drawn a lot of strength from its success in pursuing the goal of ubiquity and of Windows on every desktop. At one time, Red Hat was probably what most people would have turned to when getting started with Linux. Do you think that distributions like Ubuntu might be taking over that position, and is that a concern for you moving forward?

There may be a little issue there, but Red Hat Fedora is a massive large free distribution that is out there with leading-edge technology, so I feel comfortable with that. I think that the overall benefit of more Linux out there is certainly better than the risk around [competition from Ubuntu].

You know, we came out and said we weren't going to have a consumer desktop, and some people were thinking, "What are you doing?" And, you know, I guess that a better way to have said that is, "We are not going to have a business model built around a consumer desktop."

Some people will say, "Oh, there are so many desktops out there ... blah, blah, blah." And I look at it and say, "You know, great, but I want Linux on them, and I don't see why anyone should pay for it. Why should you at home pay for a desktop? It should be free."

But we've built, arguably, the only successful open-source business model of any scale because we address the customer's need. We take open-source software, the power of iterative innovation, and make it consumable to the enterprise-the testing, the tuning, the certification, the service-level agreements. If you're on the New York Stock Exchange, those things matter-they matter a lot.

But the average home user? Fedora's never crashed. If it did happen to crash one time, would it be catastrophic? Everyone is used to Windows crashing all the time, and so why should you have to pay for all the service levels and the support for the absolute certification and the certainty that it's always going to run?

If you don't need that, you shouldn't be paying for the desktop. So, again, I draw a clear distinction between where open source should be and where Linux should be and where open-source business models should be. Open source will continue to pervade a lot of areas, but I think where those are monetized won't necessarily directly overlap.

I mean, [Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth] can obviously do it [charge for Ubuntu]-it's his company-but I don't see the business model relatively.

Again, I applaud Ubuntu; I'm glad they're out there getting Linux out there. I do think they play a little bit closer to the edge, especially around proprietary codecs and those things. ...

My concern there is, and this has died down a lot, [that] Microsoft and others early on tried to portray open source as a bunch of pirates who had no respect for intellectual property.

I would actually argue that people in open source have extraordinary appreciation for intellectual property and the power of intellectual property. Look at the GPL [General Public License]. It uses intellectual property and the protections around that in a very powerful way to keep it open. So true open-source believers understand and value the importance of intellectual property.

I think that even more ingrained in the users of Linux and open-source software than a respect for intellectual property or an understanding of the importance of intellectual property is a desire to hack around problems.

I agree. But, I think as leaders in open source, it's up to us to lead that battle, not to say, "You know, let's make it easier." I mean, we need to make sure we champion that. I think, especially Red Hat, as the established, clear leader in open source, we have a special duty to make sure that we are living by the principles and leading by example. From the patent settlement that we recently did to supporting ODF [OpenDocument Format]-all those things.

That patent settlement was a really good example of how Red Hat is different from, say, Novell, in the way that it is approaching these issues.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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