The death of Red Hat Inc.s desktop Linux ambitions has been greatly exaggerated.
When Red Hat sent customers an e-mail with updates on the fast-approaching, end-of-life dates for Red Hat Linux 7.1 through 9, many interpreted the message as an announcement that Red Hat was quitting the desktop Linux market, but this is not the case.
The consumer Linux desktop has never been a focus for Red Hat, but the company continues to target the corporate desktop with the workstation edition of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.
Its true there will be no Red Hat Linux 10. That branch of Linux releases has been renamed Fedora Core and will continue the bleeding-edge development course that Red Hat announced for the line with the shipment of Red Hat Linux 9 last spring.
Red Hats branding moves are meant to shepherd as many users as possible toward the RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) line and its profitable per-machine, service- contract model.
What does change with the debut of Fedora Core is the support term that Red Hat guarantees for releases in its faster-moving, nonenterprise line. Companies can expect five years of updates and support for RHEL versions and less than a year of updates for Fedora Core—unless the community, which Red Hat has invited to take a larger role in the development of Fedora, opts to provide support for a longer period.
The other big change with Fedora is that Red Hat will stop offering even the basic, $60-per-year Red Hat Network subscriptions with which Red Hat Linux users could manage updates for their systems. However, in eWEEK Labs tests of Fedora Core 1 and of the beta versions leading up to its release, we found it more convenient than ever to fetch software updates. Red Hats Up2date software now supports the Advanced Package Tool and Yum software repositories, and the Fedora community is very active.
Fedora is still built by Red Hat. Red Hat developers are all over the Fedora mailing lists, and itll be in Fedora that new features and components get their first tryout before making their way into the RHEL line.
More than anything, these recent moves put into focus the choice that businesses must make when selecting a Linux distribution. For enterprise-level product stability and support, companies will have to pay enterprise prices. Organizations interested in the lowest-cost Linux scenarios will have to turn to a more community-oriented support structure, which many groups will likely find acceptable.
However, with Red Hat dropping any enterprise veneer from what must be its most heavily used product (now project) line, the door may now be open for other community-oriented Linux distributions, such as Debian, to cut into Red Hats user share.