Can Ubuntu Shine Where Red Hat Won't Go?
Red Hat's announcement that it would give up its pursuit of the consumer desktop with a Linux-based operating system started quite a buzz on the Linux blogs this week. The acceptance of Linux as a consumer alternative to Windows and Mac OS X is a perennial issue in the open source community.
You know it's a good week on the Linux blogs when there are topics that draw more than a thousand comments on Slashdot. Indeed, such was the case last week.
To start with the most obvious, Red Hat's announcement that it would not develop a desktop version of Linux for the consumer market in the near future made quite a stir on the Linux blogs, with conversations on Slashdot, Foogazi and LXer, to name just a few.
"Red Hat is concentrating too much on the short term," charged deragon on Slashdot, where more than 400 comments followed that news. "Yes, they should not spend too much money marketing a desktop version or polishing it. Canonical barely does any marketing (ever saw an ad from Ubuntu?). But Red Hat should have a presence on the desktop to remain in the race in the long term."
No Year of the Linux Desktop?
Then again: "RedHat has ALWAYS focused on the server/workstation market," countered Constantine XVI. "They're not focusing on the desktop because the backroom is what they're best at."
And another view: "Why do you think Red Hat spun Fedora off, and have set them up as mostly self sufficient?" wrote peragrin. "The personal desktop market isn't profitable when you have to compete against an illegal monopoly. Even with Free software as a base.
"The year of the Linux desktop isn't going to happen," peragrin added. "The year of the Linux mobile, the Linux server and the Linux hand-held computer, however, are fast approaching. Linux will take the desktop market through the back door. By getting in on every other device first."
No Big Deal
"I don't think it's a big issue at all," Foogazi blogger Adam Kane told LinuxInsider. "Red Hat provides a ton of contributions for the Linux kernel, but as a business they understand that there is too much work and too much money involved in battling the two powerhouse consumer desktops, MacOSX and Microsoft Windows.
"I think if there was not already a Linux leader charging to the front of the Linux desktop consumer lines (Ubuntu), Red Hat may have rethought their decision," Kane added. "In some ways, this kind of validates that Red Hat believes in Ubuntu."
Indeed, "I think that it's probably a situation where financial concerns have trumped any sort of visionary thought of how exactly Linux is going to play on the desktop," Charles King, president and principal analyst with Pund-IT, told LinuxInsider. "The way Linux has evolved over the years, you could probably call it a bellwether event."
Not too long ago, "people assumed that as Linux developed, it would eventually offer a true competitor for Microsoft Windows and Office, but that just hasn't happened," King explained. "It's done well in the data center, but the desktop has been just a tiny portion of that."
There is cause for optimism, however, from the standpoint of what companies like are Ubuntu doing, King added.
Ready for the Masses?
Speaking of Ubuntu, the aforementioned 1,000 (and more) comments on Slashdot followed the posting of a Computerworld article that suggested Hardy Heron may be the version that finally gets Linux right for the masses.
It does, agreed markdavis on Slashdot, "but no more so than Mandriva 2008.1.
"I installed it this past weekend and it is about as slick as I have seen any Linux installation thus far. Everything just 'works,' and works well," markdavis added. "It is gorgeous, fast, easy to use, seamlessly knit together, simple to update, loaded with helpful admin tools, and full of packages. It is nice to know there are many decent choices for a high quality Linux desktop experience!"
Not everyone, however, was quite so optimistic.
"I think that in order for Linux to be really ready, someone has to suck it up, and include mp3 and DVD playing out of the box," wrote prockcore. "Stop playing it safe and force Fraunhofer's hand. Make them come out as bad guys and demand you remove mp3 support. "I understand there are scary legal reasons for not having mp3/DVD support," prockcore added. "But as a user, I don't care what they are."
OK, Now *This* Is the Year ...
Foogazi's Kane had a different take. "I definitely think that Hardy Heron may finally give Linux the boost it needs to make Linux ready for the masses," he said. "With Wubi, Ubuntu has taken the step of making it even easier to install Ubuntu as a Windows user. Wubi eliminates any risk of losing information because you don't have to format or partition any disks.
"However, without proper marketing and advertising, Linux may never reach the masses," Kane noted.
Of all the many comments on the topic, Anonymous Coward may have summed it up best on Slashdot: "This year's the Year... I can feel it! (Not like all those other years -- those were totally different.)"
As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Til next week!
This story was originally published on April 21, 2008, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.