When is stupid not so stupid?

Commercial projects are looking at the bottom line, as they should. Open source projects don't have to.

When it's open source.

Moves that would look foolish for a proprietary vendor make a different kind of sense when made by an open source project.

The reason, in a word, is altruism. Commercial projects are looking at the bottom line, as they should. Open source projects don't have to. They are collections of individuals, or groups, engaged in mutual assistance. Whatever benefits the members is worthwhile.

Exhibit A today is Ubuntu. This month they delivered a server Linux with available support. Dapper Drake is Ubuntu's first "enterprise" Linux, with support available for up to 5 years. There are also improvements to the desktop distribution.

Red Hat says they are not worried. Nor should they be. If Ubuntu were a commercial operation I might say they were making a mistake, spending time on an area where they are not strong, rather than concentrating on their niche.

But Ubuntu is not a commercial operation. It has an advantage over other distros in that it supports many, many languages. Now Linux users in those languages can get an "enterprise-class" Linux which speaks their language, with full support. Together these people do not create material market share. But in the Ubuntu world their desires are what count.

Commercial vendors -- whether proprietary or open source -- don't follow small niches. Ubuntu, as an open source project, follows its users' needs, and since many of those users speak local languages, it tries to provide a wider service to them.

Thus does news that doesn't matter, matter very much.

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