Speculating on Red Hat and Microsoft

Speculating on Red Hat and Microsoft

Summary: CNET reported last week that Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer met for lunch in New York. That's something like Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh chowing down together -- you just wouldn't expect it to happen.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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CNET reported last week that Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer met for lunch in New York. That's something like Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh chowing down together -- you just wouldn't expect it to happen. I wonder if the waiters were asked to sign NDAs?

It doesn't look like Red Hat or Microsoft want to comment on the nature of the meeting, so all that's left is speculation about what the two CEO's were discussing. David Berlind ponders the possibility that perhaps Microsoft wants to buy Red Hat.

That possibility boggles the mind. But, perhaps, the meeting was just a tad more mundane than that. Microsoft has said that it wants to discuss how it can work with open source folks. Microsoft has buried the hatchet with Sun, in what the two companies say is a productive relationship. Perhaps the meeting between Szulik and Ballmer was to discuss partnership rather than purchase.

I think, by now, Microsoft has realized that it has to come to grips with Linux and open source and learn how to co-exist. That doesn't mean that Microsoft is ready to concede its position as top dog, but the folks in Redmond are probably getting the message that many of their customers want to use open source and Microsoft together -- and if that's not possible, Microsoft might just be the loser if organizations have to choose between the two systems. Faced with the prospect of getting some money or no money, it doesn't take a genius to do the math and decide that reduced revenue is better than none at all.

The first thing my mind jumped to is the fact that Microsoft plans to support Red Hat Linux with the Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) software. (What a heart-warming acronym.) Here's a money-making opportunity for both companies. By offering support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux in MOM, Microsoft simply acknowledges the reality that its customers are going to run Linux for some tasks.

The best way for Microsoft to provide decent support for its hybrid customers is to work with a Linux vendor like Red Hat so that its product works well with Linux -- at least a specific Linux distro like Red Hat Advanced Server. (Ballmer even mentions that they're working to better support Linux with MOM during the Microsoft Management Summit.) It's certainly a smart move for Red Hat to make sure that their enterprise distros run in MOM to ensure that they can reach more of Microsoft's customers -- particularly if Red Hat distros are the only officially-supported Linux distributions.

That's just my guess, though. What do you think Microsoft and Red Hat have have in common? Is this the start of beautiful friendship, or a blip on the radar? I'd love to hear your theories.

Topic: Open Source

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