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ZDNet: Q&A: Red Hat CEO says Linux won't rule

Feb 04, 2002, 18:39 (39 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Matthew Broersma)

[ Thanks to jorgerpo for this link. ]

"In 1996 or 1997, we won this big award from InfoWorld, we tied with Windows NT as the best server operating system. The people who were most shocked by this were those of us at Red Hat, because there were 23 of us, including the receptionist, in the tobacco fields of North Carolina at the time. And Microsoft had put a billion dollars into NT, and they'd started the project three years before Red Hat was even formed, and the best they could do was to tie us for the damn award. Who rewrote the laws of economics?

What it hammered home for us was the key value was not what Red Hat was doing, it was this collaborative model we were enabling.

Fast forward from 1997 and where is the community today? You read Slashdot, and people say, "this is all sold out, I'm not contributing my code anymore." We may have alienated the early free software foundation, Richard Stallman's group -- some of those guys are true idealogues, and they contributed software for truly altruistic reasons. But those were always a smaller part of the developer community.

Most people who were contributing software did so in a form of barter system. They needed a better Linux themselves, and that's why they contributed. Don Becker at NASA describes this as clearly as anyone else when he was asked why he contributes extremely fast Ethernet drivers, which is an extremely sophisticated technology, to the Linux kernel, and then allows Red Hat to make money selling his Ethernet drivers, and he doesn't make any money at it. He said, 'Let me get this straight: I write a small Ethernet driver, that I admittedly give away, and Red Hat get to put in a box. And in return I get the complete source code and a license to do whatever I want with a complete 800MB operating system, and you're telling me Red Hat's taking advantage of me?'"

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