What’s going on with the Red Hat Linux Desktop?

From the ‘apparently it’s not the year of the Linux desktop‘ files:

For years, we’ve heard various vendors and pundits proclaim, ‘ the year of the Linux Desktop’ . Linux leader, Red Hat however isn’t proclaiming 2008 to be the year of the Linux Desktop, in fact they’re being very forthright about the difficult prospects that the Linux Desktop faces.

In a very blunt blog post Red Hat noted:

We have no plans to create a traditional desktop product for the consumer market in the foreseeable future.

The post notes that Red Hat is a publicly traded for profit company and that making money with desktops is harder to do than with servers. That said Red Hat did indicate that they are NOT abandoning the Linux Desktop all together. Red Hat still plans on working on the Red Hat Enterprise Desktop (which first debuted in 2004), as well as Fedora (which runs multiple desktops including KDE and GNOME).

Work is also still ongoing with the Red Hat Global Desktop (RHGD) which has been somewhat delayed. RHGD is supposed to be a smaller Linux Desktop for emerging market deployments.

So why isn’t Red Hat going after the consumer market? The answer is really simple. They don’t want to get killed by Microsoft.

The desktop
market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still
perceive that today’s Linux desktops simply don’t provide a practical
alternative. Of course, a growing number of technically savvy users and
companies have discovered that today’s Linux desktop is indeed a
practical alternative. Nevertheless, building a sustainable business
around the Linux desktop is tough, and history is littered with example
efforts that have either failed outright, are stalled or are run as

Being a curious journalist, I contacted Red Hat to see if I could get any additional insight, but unfortunately I was denied.

“At this point we are not granting any interviews on this topic, just pointing folks to the blog,” a Red Hat spokesperson told InternetNews.com.

Considering that Red Hat is literally giving away a very viable Linux Desktop today for free — with Fedora, I’m not at all worried or surprised by Red Hat’s desktop disclosure. The technology is there today for those that have the willingness to experiment and tinker. Providing support to millions of end-users, at what would likely be very low margins is undeniably a tough business. Ubuntu is kinda/sorta trying to do it with Dell today and it still remains to be seen how successful that effort actually will be over the long haul.

In the new era of Software as a Service and Cloud Computing though, the need for an actual desktop — beyond just a web browser  — is also becoming increasingly limited.

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