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Chickens Pecking Red Hat

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We'll return to examining the state of Linux printing next week. Today I want to wonder aloud why all these big tough tech companies have Red Hat in their cross-hairs? Oracle, Microsoft, and now Novell all seemed determined to crush Red Hat like a bug. And yet Red Hat, despite being the largest and most successful pure Free/Open Source company, is tiny by comparison. Revenues for their last fiscal year, which ended in February, were about $523 million, with a net of $76 million. Which is a lot by my standards, but compared to the other three is small. Oracle and Microsoft are both multi-billion dollar companies, and Novell came close to cracking the billion-dollar mark in their 2007 fiscal year.

So one might suppose that a big company looking to grow bigger would seek out new, potentially bigger markets, rather than poaching from smaller markets. But that is not the case here-- what's so special about Red Hat that these titans of industry have irresistible urges to squash it out of existence?

Ordinarily I would contact the parties involved and ask them. In this case, maybe I'm wrong, but I think it's a waste of time. They will ramble on about strategic this and superior global solutions that, and perhaps throw in a bit of fake patriotism, e.g. a free market and competition are what made this country great! Though hopefully, given the current economic conditions they would not be dim enough to say that. But you never know-- maybe I should just for the giggles factor.

Anyway I have my own theories, and to me they are much more entertaining than enduring yet another round of carefully-crafted PR-speak, FUD, and propaganda. It's understandable why Microsoft wants to mash Red Hat; Red Hat is the lone Linux target with actual money and customers. Microsoft can't effectively attack the hundreds of community distributions. It can't even target the prime ones like Debian, Slackware, and Gentoo, which are parents to hundreds of other distributions. There is nothing to attack, except with silly trash-talk, empty patent threats, and a lot of deceptive "MS hearts OSS" posturing that fools no one. So Red Hat represents a concrete target. Never mind that killing off Red Hat will not kill off Linux; when a bully wants to mash someone the mashing is all that matters. We expect irrational, destructive behavior from Redmond.

Oracle puzzles me, since their application stack runs on several operating systems. Ego? Hubris? I suppose there may be a sound business case for becoming an operating system vendor buried in there somewhere, but I sure don't see it. They're not rolling out their own official BSD or OpenSolaris-- why pick on Red Hat? If they really wanted an OS that they controlled, one of the BSDs would be perfect since there is no requirement to share modifications, and they are every bit as stout and scalable as Linux or any other Unix.

Novell-- meh. Once upon a time they were a determined, though unfortunately incompetent competitor to Microsoft. They had a network OS that supported pretty much anything you could throw into it, with all of the identity management and resource management and interoperability you could want. Now they're little better than a branch of Microsoft. It's a good thing the openSUSE project is slowly becoming more independent, because SUSE is worth salvaging.

Anyone that really wants to grow their Linux business doesn't target other Linux businesses, because the real opportunity and growth are in migrations away from Unix and Windows. I did it myself for several years, though of course on a lone freelancer scale. There are a lot of small Linux businesses doing the same thing-- so what's up with these ace giants of tech? You'd think they would be perfectly positioned to perform such migrations, with all the engineering and marketing talent they need.

But instead they're wasting real opportunities to chase after little old Red Hat, who, by the way, is doing just fine despite having all these laser-dots squarely on their corporate forehead. I think it's nothing more than Redmond continuing to call the shots, and an inexplicable blindness to where the real long-term opportunities are. Let's have a hearty hip-hip hooray for free enterprise-- it's good thing we have all those little hippie commie FOSS people preserving it.

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