SAN DIEGO—Red Hat announced its upcoming new client product, the Red Hat Global Desktop, at its annual summit here on May 9.
The global desktop is designed to deliver a modern user experience with an enterprise-class suite of productivity applications, and was developed in collaboration with Intel to enable its design, support and distribution.
“We are taking advantage of the global desktops high performance and minimal hardware requirements to support a wide range of Intels current and future desktop platforms, including the Classmate, Affordable, Community and Low-Cost PC lines,” Red Hat Chief Technology Officer Brian Stevens said.
Red Hat recently told eWEEK that it was planning a packaged Linux desktop product that it hoped will push its desktop to a far broader audience than exists for its current client solution.
“As we move out with this new desktop strategy, which we will announce sometime over the next few months, we will really look at the desktop from the perspective of a very different market. This will be a more comprehensive offering that will target markets like the small and medium-sized business [SMB] sector and emerging markets,” Paul Cormier, Red Hats executive vice president of engineering, told eWEEK in an exclusive interview on this.
The move is designed in part to compete with Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 platform, which includes SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, both released in July 2006.
“To us, the traditional desktop metaphor is dead; its a dinosaur,” Stevens said during his opening keynote address at the summit May 9. “We dont believe that recreating the Windows paradigm does anything to increase the productivity paradigm of any user. The new model has to be about the user, centered around activities and not just based on documents and applications,”
Steve Dallman, the general manager of Intels worldwide reseller channel organization, said the company had worked with Red Hat to deliver a pre-certified, cost-effective solution that Intels reseller channel could use to extend their business value.
“Running the Red Hat global desktop on Intel processor-powered PCs provides full access to applications and rich experiences to users across local markets, education, small businesses and government agencies,” he said.
The global desktop was the defining client paradigm for the future; one that allowed communication and collaboration along with document management at every stage, Stevens said.
It includes technologies like Mugshot, Red Hats open-source networking service, which was announced last year, he said. The companys continuing investments were also aimed at developing next-generation desktop user experiences where online services were ubiquitous and information was hosted in a virtual environment.
“This will support a world where client computing user experiences are online, global, pervasive and span a wide range of new devices,” he said.
Stevens also showed how its partnership with the One Laptop Per Child foundation to design and develop the user interface and operating system for a laptop had quickly yielded hardware that is already in the hands of children in developing countries.
Users, requirements and technologies have changed dramatically over the past few years, so that the traditional one-size-fits-all desktop paradigm was now simply exhausted.
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“Commercial customers are still begging for desktop security and manageability for their knowledge workers; consumers are rapidly adopting new online services and applications; and developing nations are looking for affordable information technologies that bypass traditional desktops entirely,” Stevens said.
With regard to its desktop offering for the enterprise, Stevens noted that the company released its Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 5 in March.
However, going forward, Red Hat “plans to unveil a new model for protecting the privacy of critical data to meet the needs of environments such as financial services, health care and government institutions,” he said.
Stevens also told attendees that Red Hat has learned, much to its surprise, that people were taking RHEL 5 and running Windows on top of it in a virtualized environment. As such, Red Hat is working on optimizing and paravirtualizing its storage and network drivers to give customers running Windows on RHEL 5 near-native performance, he said, noting that those drivers will be available some time in 2007.
“The incumbents have too much to lose if things change, but you have too much to lose if they dont. The performance and cost of Linux on x86 is outperforming anything else in the market, and that gap is only going to widen,” Stevens said.
During his part of the opening keynote, Matthew Szulik, the CEO, president and chairman of Red Hat, noted that the open-source community had long pursued the ideal of a competitive Linux desktop.
But the client metaphor is about to change as trying to become an appendage of the current incumbent is “simply not an option. Many of those companies that have tried to do this are not around anymore. We would have bought Corel five years ago if that was the paradigm our customers wanted,” Szulik said.
The client has always been of interest to Red Hat, especially with regard to how to move into the mobile device segment, Szulik said, noting that, for Red Hat, this movement is part of a broader collaborative development movement that includes device management and building the ecosystem around next-generation applications.
With regard to a client strategy, Szulik said it was important to balance its use, monetization and alignment to markets, and that this is increasingly less about just the presentation level.
“The enterprises that we are talking to do not see the desktop of the future as being the same as the one that exists today,” he said.
“There needs to be a physical form factor that is cool and creative and groundbreaking and based on open-source technologies and open standards,” Szulik said, adding that he often wondered what would have happened to technology if there was no open source, which is now starting to slip into the social paradigm as well with things like eVoting initiatives.
In a press session after the keynote, Szulik was asked about Red Hats relationship with Microsoft and whether it continued to talk to Microsoft with regard to interoperability.
“We have engaged them and would like nothing more than to work with them on vendor-neutral open standards, but we dont want to see any of these become compromised,” Szulik said.
“We all want interoperability and, all these years after Windows was first released, we are still talking about it. Interoperability is a great thing and we are committed to that and we continue to engage and work with them and others, like IBM, around this.”
Services are the base of the future and that will be Red Hats focus going forward, Szulik said, adding that Red Hat Exchange also brings the opportunity for the community to scale its open-source services.