Fun Friday: What If We Built an Operating System, and Nobody Came?

Well, Red Hat put lots of time and money into creating a professional developer version of Linux, put it on the market at $2,500 per “computer”, and in two weeks a clone of it called CentOS done by a squad of open source developers was put on the net for free. It’s hard to compete with “free”.

According to Stephen Shankland of Cnet “It’s clear, however, that many Red Hat clone users aren’t likely to embrace the original anytime soon. ‘I don’t pay for Linux, and I have absolutely no need for a Red Hat-style subscription (for) support,’ said Collins Richey, a Denver Linux enthusiast who uses CentOS on his personal computers to keep them compatible with work machines. ‘I’m considering recommending CentOS for limited use as a trial project…at work’.”

Red Hat tries to put a positive spin on it, saying “If they try versions that are not supported or supported inadequately, they will get a hint of the value propositions that are available for Linux and ultimately turn to a company that can support their businesses,” (Leigh Day, Red Hat spokeswoman). Some most assuredly will. But if my bit of experience in this area is any indicator, I believe that customers will wait until it is hacked, cudgeled, and otherwise moulded until it becomes good enough to be supported in-house. And still remains free. It may not be profitable to Red Hat, but it is “free enterprise” at its finest.

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