What is Red Hat's achilles heel? No, it's not SuSE, Windows, or Solaris. Ubuntu anyone?

Summary:By way of Slashdot comes this interesting editorial at FreeSoftwareMagazine.com by Tony Mobily who makes a case for why Linux server success is connected to Linux desktop usage, how this initially benefited Red Hat, how Red Hat lost sight of that basic principle, and how Ubuntu not only has it right, but is poised to dethrone Red Hat.

By way of Slashdot comes this interesting editorial at FreeSoftwareMagazine.com by Tony Mobily who makes a case for why Linux server success is connected to Linux desktop usage, how this initially benefited Red Hat, how Red Hat lost sight of that basic principle, and how Ubuntu not only has it right, but is poised to dethrone Red Hat. Writes Mobily:

......Then, the split: Fedora came along, but it was underfunded and the “community involvement” was patchy and disorganised. Eventually, Red Hat effectively abandoned its desktop audience, to focus on the more lucrative corporate market. Then, a very smart man called Mark Shuttleworth made 500 million dollars in the .com boom, learned Russian from scratch, went to space, came back in one piece, funded several charities focussing on South Africa, and... oh yes, he created Ubuntu Linux.

Mark accomplished three things with his move. First of all, he created tons and tons of work for himself. This isn’t really crucial to my point, but I think it’s important to mention it. He also gathered a community of hackers to create what is, in my humble opinion, the first desktop GNU/Linux done right. And I mean, really right. The third thing he did, was divert tons, and tons, and tons of GNU/Linux users away from Red Hat Linux, and towards Ubuntu Linux. A lot of those people—and this is the crucial piece of information—were system administrators, who in the last 12 months got more and more used to using Ubuntu Linux rather than Red Hat. And—guess what?—now they have Ubuntu Server, which—again, guess what?—is a GNU/Linux server system done right......

Although I didn't copy his entire story verbatim, that's a fair enough chunk that I'll repsect his requirement anyway which is to mention this copyright notice: (C) Tony Mobily 2006 Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. 

Mobily's editorial makes some interesting points and there's no question that the buzz around Ubuntu is very hot right now and some influential people from some unlikely organizations are writing about it.

Bob Sutor, vice president of open source and open standards at IBM where Red Hat and SuSE Linux are the party line, recently ditched Ubuntu to give SuSE a try but it was barely minutes before he realized his error and went back to Ubuntu.  

Tim Bray, director of Web Technologies at Sun where Solaris is king (but where a lot of people run Mac on their destkops) has chronicled his involuntary encounter with Ubuntu running on a Ultra 20 (Yikes!).  He's using it to keep his blog updated while his Mac in the shop for a logic board that fried itself right at the moment that he opened up a Microsoft Word document from a lawyer (begs the question.... was it the Word formatting or the fact that it came from a lawyer that the logic board found to be illogical?).  Then today, he filed an update which seems to indicate that he's pretty happy with Ubuntu and sees it as doing some things right where Mac OS X gets them wrong.   

Recently, as a part of a interesting analysis entitled Debian, Ubuntu, and the future of Linux, Stephen O'Grady, principal analyst at Redmonk wrote:

Ubtuntu is in some respects the Linux distribution equivalent to Ruby on Rails: it values convention over configuration, and makes certain choices in the name of simplicity.

My question: While in New York for C3 Expo, I bumped into some folks from Xandros. There was a period of time there where Xandros was hot.  What happened to Xandros now that Ubuntu now has all that great karma? 

Topics: Open Source

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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