Red Hat, Inc. is taking a wait and see attitude on the subject
of newly announced UnitedLinux.
This was the basic line that came from an interview with Red
Hat's VP of Marketing Mark de Visser this afternoon. Even in his
official prepared statement, de Visser projected a sense of
cautious optimism about today's announcement:
"Too many distributions hamper the migration of applications to
Linux, so if this effort by Caldera and others consolidates
distributions it is a good development. But in Linux, application
support is everything. Red Hat Linux Advanced Server has it today.
Time will tell if the Caldera group's distribution will achieve the
same level of support."
Delving into the background of that statement a bit more, de
Visser emphasized the notion of application support, which is what
he thinks will make or break UnitedLinux in the long run.
Application support is something that Red Hat has no problems
accomplishing, and he wondered if UnitedLinux would be able to meet
"By the time they release their distribution," he said, "they
will have to prove they can handle application support."
Red Hat seems to not be terribly concerned that this new distro
is going to make a big change for their business. According to de
Visser, many of the players within UnitedLinux have not shown up in
Red Hat's accounts before, and he does not see this changing in the
"The market dynamic has not changed much," he said, "There were
four distribution companies before and there will be four
distribution companies after."
As for the open invitation for Red Hat to join UnitedLinux, they
are again taking a wait and see approach. Clearly, de Visser
explained, the circumstances would have to be advantageous for Red
Hat to join UnitedLinux. If, he raised as a hypothetical, Red Hat
would be required to lose its development staff in favor of
UnitedLinux, then obviously Red Hat would not be interested. In
reality, negotiations on the role of Red Hat in the newly formed
group would have to be worked out.
Red Hat was not surprised by the creation of UnitedLinux, but
they were concerned about the spirit of the move until just
yesterday. "Until they called us yesterday, the whole thing smelled
of competition," de Visser said, adding that Red Hat felt better
about it when they were notified before the formal announcement and
asked to work with the new distribution group after all.
de Visser strongly downplayed the notion of a competition
between Red Hat and UnitedLinux, citing Microsoft and Sun as the
real challengers to Linux.
He also made a point to highlight Red Hat's own Alliance
Program, which, like UnitedLinux, seeks to bring in independent
software vendors' products into the Linux arena. One upcoming
example of that will be Oracle's announcement next week about its
new Unbreakable Linux, where Oracle products running on Red Hat
Advanced Server and Dell server hardware will be combined to form a
very solid product line. If these are the kinds of things
UnitedLinux hopes to achieve, de Visser said, then Red Hat is
already ahead in terms of bringing certified, ported software to
When asked about the perception that Linux companies are leaving
the desktop users behind with this sudden fixation on the
enterprise, de Visser was very quick to counter this idea as a
"Some of the most exciting development in Linux today is taking
place on the desktop," he said, citing recent advances in
Evolution, StarOffice, and Mozilla. "I think that, very soon, we
will be offering a good desktop for users."
Red Hat, he stessed, has not abandoned the desktop at all.
As for UnitedLinux, de Visser and the rest of Red Hat want to
see the product produced by the fledgling distro. That will be the
real proof in the pudding.
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