May 4, 2004

Red Hat: Onward through the fog!

Author: Joe Barr

At a press conference in London today, Red Hat chairman and CEO Matthew Szulik unveiled the firm's latest plans for desktop/client Linux. Longtime followers of Red Hat's march to the desktop are probably already making book on how long it is before the company reverses its direction again.

NewsForge was unable to speak directly to Szulik following the press conference, but if we had been able to do a trans-Atlantic telephone interview, our first question might have been: Mister Szulik, would you please describe for our readers how your desktop approach is different from the walk of a drunken sailor?

Szulik has been nothing if not confusing when it comes to Red Hat and the desktop.
It's only been six months since Szulik was quoted as saying "I would say that for the consumer market place, Windows probably continues to be the right product line."

In another interview earlier last year, Szulik said "The desktop is certainly an important area, but when we're inside now speaking to corporations the areas they are trying to solve are around configuration management, patch updates, scheduling, other hard problems that are causing their systems not to perform the way they want. Those are the areas we see as more strategic at this moment in time and of course ultimately, [our strategy] will find its way toward the Red Hat Desktop implementation."

Careful readers will note the fine distinction between a consumer desktop and a corporate desktop. But wait, there's more. As reported in 2002, when the Red Hat chairman was building the case for a Red Hat desktop, he said "The same phenomena on the server is spreading to the desktop."

Red Hat product history reflects the same confusing picture. When Red Hat 8.0 was released in 2002, a big part of its feature set was Bluecurve, Red Hat's custom desktop design which managed to anger both the KDE and GNOME camps.

That continued with Red Hat 9, but then the next bombshell fell when Red Hat announced the end of Red Hat Linux. That's the desktop version of Red Hat, as opposed to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is the server version. In an announcement last September, Red Hat revealed that its commercial, supported, RHN eligible desktop offering was going bye-bye and would be replaced by a community supported project called Fedora.

And that's the way it went, too. Until this morning. We recommend checking Red Hat's strategic desktop planning on at least a weekly basis so you can keep up with which way the wind is blowing.


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