Red Hat Introduces Desktop Linux Competitor

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-05-04 Print this article Print

Due midmonth, Red Hat Desktop will take on desktop alternatives from Novell and Sun. The company said costs will be around $6 per seat.

Red Hat Inc. on Tuesday will announce its new desktop offering, the Red Hat Desktop, which the company said will be available by the middle of this month.
Red Hat currently offers an Enterprise Linux Workstation, which is based on the same operating system platform as its server products, as well as a Professional Workstation product, available through the retail channel, both of which were launched last October.
Read eWEEK Labs test drive of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0. The new desktop product is targeted at those Microsoft Corp. customers currently running Windows 98, NT and 2000 and who are looking at the end of support for their platforms from the Redmond, Wash., software maker. Red Hat is also targeting those customers concerned about "lock-in" with the technology behind Longhorn [the next version of Windows] and where the operating system is headed and exactly what Microsoft will build into it. "Those are things that are starting to swirl around our prospective customers minds," said Mike Ferris, an enterprise Linux product manager for Raleigh N.C.-based Red Hat in an interview with eWEEK. "We also have a pretty large installed base of Red Hat Linux and Enterprise Linux as well as customers with Unix desktops who are looking for replacements. This gives them pretty significant options moving forward," he said. Better than expected sales of its enterprise lines boosted Red Hats last quarter and year-end results, reported in March. Read more here about its sales success. The timing of the announcement of this new Red Hat Desktop appears to drive home that point as it comes on the same day that Microsoft executives Jim Allchin, the group vice president of platforms, and Bill Gates, the chief software architect, talk about their vision and roadmap for Longhorn, the next version of Windows, at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle. Click here to read more about the keynote addresses. Core technologies in this new desktop include GNOME; the Version 1.1 productivity suite; the Mozilla browser; Evolution, the Outlook-compatible groupware client; patch management and provisioning; and software from Adobe Systems Inc., Citrix Systems Inc., Macromedia Inc. and RealNetworks Inc. How does OpenOffice stack up against Office 2003? Click here to read the eWEEK Labs evaluation of the productivity suites. Ferris also said that Red Hats chosen desktop path was GNOME and that everything it did to build out that interface were part of its developmental efforts. "We do have support for KDE [eV] applications inside of GNOME, but we have placed our chips on the table around GNOME." The company will also continue its open collaboration with the open-source and Linux communities, including the Fedora Project and on interoperability and standards with the Linux Standards Base, he said. Click here to read an eWEEK Labs review of Fedora Core 2. The Red Hat Desktop will be made available in configurations that include either Red Hat Network Proxy or Satellite Servers, which enable several clients to be deployed and managed simultaneously, while simplifying the security and management of systems. Pricing for the new desktop will take two forms: for $2,500 a year, customers will receive a Red Hat Network Proxy starter pack that contains a Red Hat Network Proxy server, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server Premium, and 10 kits each of desktops and desktop management modules. It will include 30 days of phone support and one year of Web-based support. The second option, at $13,500 a year, is the Red Hat Network Satellite package, which includes everything in the Proxy starter pack, except the Proxy Server is replaced with a Satellite Server. Extension packs for customers who want to extend an existing deployment of Red Hat Network or other Red Hat server products, or which could just be added to an environment, cost $3,500 a year for 50 desktop and management modules. A free evaluation for the Red Hat Desktop will also be available. "This amounts to a little bit less than $6 a month per desktop. These packages include everything a user needs to deploy and manage the desktop. The management focus here is to emphasize the back-end infrastructure and the TCO savings customers will have. For new customers or those wanting to start a rollout, these packages give them that starting point," Ferris said. The product will be available for purchase from Red Hat direct and from its Web site, as well as from its VAR distribution community. While no OEM distribution deals will be announced around this new desktop product, the company anticipates some relationships going forward. Next Page: So, what took Red Hat so long?

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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