Originally Published: Wednesday, 29 December 1999 Author: Nicholas Petreley
Published to: columnists/Nicholas Petreley Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Is Red Hat Really the Next Microsoft?

I continue to sense a growing resentment over Red Hat's success and prominence in the Linux market. And when the griping starts, sooner or later someone suggests that Red Hat is trying to be the next Microsoft. I must confess that nothing seems more ludicrous to me than to paint Red Hat as another Microsoft....

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I continue to sense a growing resentment over Red Hat's success and prominence in the Linux market. And when the griping starts, sooner or later someone suggests that Red Hat is trying to be the next Microsoft. I must confess that nothing seems more ludicrous to me than to paint Red Hat as another Microsoft.

No doubt there are similarities. Both Red Hat and Microsoft are aggressive at developing partnerships. But so far Microsoft is alone in crushing its partners when it no longer has any use for them. Both Red Hat and Microsoft are excellent at marketing. But so far Microsoft alone deliberately uses marketing as a weapon to destroy its competition.

But look at the differences: Microsoft has to manufacture grass-roots support and pay for "independent" organizations to promote its methodologies and products. Red Hat is built upon a true grass-roots movement: Linux.

Microsoft's goal is that everyone adopt its platform-specific proprietary software and standards. Red Hat deliberately avoids supporting anything other than open source, open standards and non-proprietary software.

Microsoft favors cosmetic improvements to its software over quality, reliability and security. Red Hat generally neglects cosmetic improvements in favor of quality, reliability, and security.

Microsoft aggressively hunts down pirates of Windows and prosecutes them. Red Hat actively invites the "pirating" of its software by making it easy to copy and distribute Red Hat Linux.

Microsoft's ultimate goal is to dominate every market it enters, often by using techniques like contract manipulation through exclusionary terms. In short, Microsoft doesn't know how to share, nor does learning how to share seem to be within the company's plans. In sharp contrast, Red Hat is building its success upon a technology that it must share. Red Hat adheres to the principles of the GNU General Public License, which prevents Red Hat from having any leverage with which to create exclusionary terms.

I don't mean to paint Red Hat as unique in this regard. All Linux vendors of which I am aware - even those that include proprietary software in their distributions - share the most important principles adopted by Red Hat, some more than others. This is indeed what worries me. It seems as if Red Hat is being singled out primarily because it is financially successful and receiving a lot of commercial attention.

But if the points I've raised above aren't the points that really matter - in other words, if what you really dislike about Red Hat is the fact that it is making a lot of money - then the Microsoft defenders may have been right all along when they said that most people dislike Microsoft simply because they are jealous of Microsoft's success. I pray that the majority of Linux advocates aren't as adolescent as that.

I encourage all fans of Linux to instead celebrate Red Hat's success, whether you like its distribution or not. Indeed, if you don't like Red Hat's distribution, you have all the more reason to celebrate Red Hat over Microsoft. If you don't like Red Hat Linux, you know there are several other distributions of Linux you can choose from. And between Microsoft and Red Hat, Red Hat is the one company that doesn't want to take those choices away from you.

Nicholas Petreley is Editorial Director of LinuxWorld. You can reach him at nicholas@petreley.com.





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