US Report: Red Hat's red letter day

Red Hat Software CEO Robert Young isn't snubbing the money -- but he said new investments from Netscape, Intel and two venture capital firms are more important to his company strategically than financially.The Linux distributor unveiled support from the industry heavyweights Tuesday.

Red Hat Software CEO Robert Young isn't snubbing the money -- but he said new investments from Netscape, Intel and two venture capital firms are more important to his company strategically than financially.

The Linux distributor unveiled support from the industry heavyweights Tuesday. Financial deals weren't disclosed, but Linux founder Linus Torvalds said the move is good for the momentum of his free operating system.

Young said he put together a short list of companies he hoped would invest in his firm, and ended up with the cream of the crop. He said Netscape's decision to release its source code for free earlier this year was one of the major reasons he wanted to partner with the company. "I could see they understood our business strategy," Young said.

That strategy is basically to sell free software. The company distributes and offers technical support for Linux, an open source operating system created seven years ago. Young said his company will come out with more products geared at the corporate space shortly. "The principal benefit is this phenomenon called control," he said, adding that -- unlike more proprietary programs such as Windows -- Linux lets users change the basic source code of the software.

For its part, Intel was quick to quell assumptions that the move indicated a souring of its relationship with mega-partner Microsoft. "It doesn't affect the support going on behind NT," Intel's VP of Sales and Marketing Sean Maloney said of Microsoft's server software, a market Linux is targeting. Instead, he said Intel was simply hedging its bets by investing in all kinds of software. The company is one of the major supporters of another alternative operating system, BeOS, founded by a former Apple executive.

Netscape said the move would create even more support for the alternative OS -- and make IT professionals in large companies proud to support Linux. "The people are finally coming out of the closet in corporations [about their support for Linux]," John Paul, general manager of Netscape's server products division, said, adding that nine months ago, "we were concerned with not looking crazy to enterprise customers."

Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux, said the move is good for the momentum of the OS, but hardly surprising. "Lately everyone's getting this feeling that this is an overnight phenomenon," he said. "I've been seeing this for seven years." During that time, Linux has grown from serving one user, Torvalds himself, to about seven million.

Torvalds -- who works on Linux as a hobby in addition to his day job -- predicts Linux will continue to surge, boosted by the roll-out of Linux-based applications such as office suites and games over the next three or four years. "That's when total world domination occurs," he quipped.

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