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So Long, And Thanks for All the Quotes

Dec 21, 2007, 23:30 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Somebody needs to send a memo to all of the corporations in the Western world: what's with all the big announcements this week? Don't you know the media is sitting around in a collective sugar coma, having eaten way too much at the office holiday parties? C'mon, you're making us look bad, here.

My own walk of shame: last week, when pondering if there were changes afoot at Red Hat, given their subtle shifts in message, I theorized that the company would get their act together soon and start delivering a new strategy. I also said this:

"Can they recover? Yes, probably, though given the time of year, don't look for any major changes until after the end of the year. Perhaps when they finally release that delayed online desktop product. Until then, we can expect to see some interesting noises as Red Hat seeks to find its new message and its new voice."

Apparently no one at Red Hat reads my column, because they missed the part where I said "given the time of year." CEO Matthew Szulik's resignation yesterday certainly counts as a major change, surprising a lot of folks inside and outside Red Hat. (Thanks, Mr. Szulik--if I didn't know better, I'd say this was your sweet revenge for my Colts finally beating your Patriots early this year in the playoffs.)

I'm kidding, obviously. Szulik's departure is one of those things that hits me on both a professional and personal level and leaves me wondering what's next for Red Hat. Szulik was always sharp, gracious, and to the point whenever I spoke with him, and I think a lot of people who are only too eager to paint him as "just another guy in a suit" are underestimating him. Szulik brought a lot to the Red Hat table, and grew the company, despite being assaulted at all sides by competitors and (at times) the community.

Many folks lament that Szulik was no Bob Young, and of course that's true. But as skilled as Young is, he might not have been what Red Hat needed these past years. You could argue this point, but ultimately it's moot: Szulik was at the helm. And whether you like Red Hat or not, he clearly steered the ship well through some rough waters.

And now we have this new captain, an outsider named James Whitehurst. I don't know much about Whitehurst (yet), but I'm wondering about this notion that's going around that somehow a guy without experience in Linux, open source, or software period is going to be a good leader for the largest commercial Linux vendor. I would like to wait a bit and see what Whitehurst can do before making a call.

Regardless of the timing, it's now crystal clear that a new message from Red Hat is on its way. Look for more jockeying from major competitors Novell, Oracle, and Microsoft in the days to come, as now they will be on the defensive, waiting to see what exactly Red Hat will do next. Frankly, it would be nice to see Red Hat coming out strong and shaking things up on their terms for a change. Time, of course, will tell.

In the meantime, I will take this opportunity to wish Mr. Szulik and his family well. Hopefully we will see him again in the world of open source. If not, the loss is ours.

My good wishes also extend to the readers, commenters, and the contributors to Linux Today. As the holidays approach, it is my hope that wherever you are, whatever your beliefs, you can celebrate the gifts in your life with the ones you love.

Peace on Earth,

Brian Proffitt