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Red Hat Software Businesses

AOL in Negotiations to Buy Red Hat? 950

Posted by michael
from the drm-coming-to-rpm dept.
bstadil sent in this rumor. The Washington Post isn't exactly a rumor site, so there's probably truth behind it. Wow. It would make a great deal of sense for AOL/Time-Warner to acquire an operating system for leverage against Microsoft - same reason they bought Netscape.
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AOL in Negotiations to Buy Red Hat?

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  • A carton of feces (Score:4, Insightful)

    by perdida (251676) <thethreatprojectNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:11PM (#2866438) Homepage Journal
    is about what this here is worth for AOL.

    What happened with Netscape?

    Microsoft edged it out. Netscape lost its competitiveness. In a straight comparison, IE kicks Netscape's ass now. The innovation departed from Netscape.

    The purchase of Linux by AOL will come with a big PR campaign about AOLinux or whatever. There will be a standard, SINGLE image of Linux in the brains of most consumers, and then AOL will take that up against Microsoft, which will easily defeat it in many consumer-level preference comparisons.

    Then, the consumers will forget Linux, not knowing that there are dozens of different flavors out there.

    I recommend keeping all linices entirely without involvement by non Linux corporations, for these cultural reasons.
  • by jonnyq (103252) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:13PM (#2866455)
    yeah, but they don't have the ability to influence the direction that the company is heading.
  • by gorillasoft (463718) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:14PM (#2866461)
    Isnt this the beauty of the GPL, AOL already has the full source to RedHat.

    They acquire the talent, the distribution, and the brand recognition all in one move. It would save them money in the long run versus hiring knowledgeable people and creating a distro to capture the market share redhat already has.

    It just makes more sense (for a large conglomerate) when moving into a new market to buy an established company than it does to start your own division that knows nothing about the new market and spend time playing catch-up. They can spend those resources instead on going where they want to go from the established base.
  • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NospAM.gmail.com> on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:14PM (#2866463)
    But it doesnt but the programming talent or good name of a company.

    The GPL is a good start - but if you want to control future development the only way to effectively do that is either hire some programming staff or buy the company.

    Buying the company is usually cheaper.
  • by sultanoslack (320583) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:18PM (#2866489)
    AOL won't really use Linux, just like they don't really use Mozilla, but it will give them something to hold over Microsoft. "If you don't intergrate us into Windows, we'll stop using it and take a few million users with us." Microsoft isn't stupid enough to let that happen. If there's one thing they're good at it's preserving their monopoly and they'll do what it takes to keep AOL from switching to Linux.
  • by KC Swan (254596) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:21PM (#2866500)
    Think about it...to many people AOL IS the internet. How many of those people would by an AOL PC? Give them a machine that runs AOL, a basic word processor and spreadsheet, and what more do they need? To the great unwashed masses, it would be the ultimate information appliance.

    Remember the days when people didn't want "PC Compatible", they wanted "Lotus 1-2-3 Compatible" and "Microsoft Flight Simulator Compatible". The problem with the various attempts at internet appliances has been that the target audience knows what they want, and what they want is AOL.
  • wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by checkitout (546879) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:22PM (#2866505)
    I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm still in disbelief that AOL was able to purchase TimeWarner and not the other way around.

    Considering how poorly they've handled their acquisiton of Netscape, this would certainly be bad news for Red Hat. I'm sure any 'hardcore' Linux users would simply choose another distro (im sure many already have), I can also see many companies no longer wanting to use Redhat due to this. IBM, HP, etc the companies associated with Redhat right now, all have a hardline tough as nails tech image. AOL, on the otherhand is known by everyone to be the lowest common denominator of internet service providers.

    Of course a close look at the article points out some things which just seem absolutely silly, and make me question its validity:

    The AOL online software, which consumers can install for free from the Web or a compact disk, is now designed to run on Microsoft's Windows operating system. But the AOL software could be configured to override Windows and launch a version of Red Hat's Linux operating system, sources said.

    Somehow, I just dont see that happening.
  • by yerricde (125198) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:22PM (#2866508) Homepage Journal

    In a straight comparison, IE kicks Netscape's ass now.

    Netscape 4's perhaps, but with regard to IE 6 vs. Mozilla 0.9.8 (effectively Netscape 6.3; 0.9.8 is due to be released in a week), I have to hand this round to Mozilla. Mozilla starts faster than IE, supports more CSS, supports XHTML (as opposed to IE just bailing and dumping the XML tree), allows for Opera-style tabbed browsing (which saves Windows user and gdi resources compared to the one window per page paradigm of IE, especially on Win9x/ME where user and gdi heaps are only 64 KB), works on platforms other than IE's Windows, Mac OS, Solaris, and HPUX, and even comes with a rudimentary IRC client (which IE+Outhouse does not).

    What does IE 6 have that Mozilla lacks (other than market share, which can change once the next version of Concept Virus hits)?

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:24PM (#2866520) Homepage
    if they buy RedHat they are buying a distribution and a service company - not an OS.
  • by nadaou (535365) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:25PM (#2866523) Homepage
    This may be a prelude to the great battle of the set-top boxes.

    The positioning of the .Net enabled XBoxes; TiVo patent lawsuits; embedded Linux.. yea, this could be big.

    "CNN watchers who haven't registered with Passport were left in the dark today as XboxTV blocked coverage, claiming CNN used incompatible digital rights management protocols. MSNBC was displaying fine though, for anyone who needed to see the latest news."
  • by Publicus (415536) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:25PM (#2866527) Homepage

    I really think that the market is going to be ready for something like this to materialize in a few years. If AOL did buy RH I think you would see a lot of GUI work (that wouldn't be GPL) go on top of the rest of the OS. I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being an i386 version of Mac OSX (similar, at least). Technically and aesthetically I think OSX beats Windows, imagine if it or something like it ran on cheap PC hardware...

    It would be cool. But I'd still be a Debian man...

  • Well put (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:27PM (#2866535)
    AOL/TW has no idea what to do with an enterprise computing asset like RH. Look at what they did to iPlanet (now officially kaput).

    On top of that, its not clear that RH needs to be bought. What are they missing? They seem to have decent capital available to them, and they are slowly cleaning up in the linux distro market. I would think IBM would be a better partner for them.

  • Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BoneFlower (107640) <george,worroll&gmail,com> on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:28PM (#2866544) Journal
    Its become patently obvious that Steve Case wants AOL to become an operating system in its own right. So this isn't entirely a surprise to me.

    On the other hand... While AOL may be able to get Linux accepted more widely, it could bring problems. I don't mind the newbies, they may be frustrating, but we need them all the same. The problem is they may start equating AOL and Linux. Its bad enough equating the web with the net, Red Hat with Linux... but AOL with Linux??? That could be a problem. AOL, if they release a Linux distro, may cripple many of the advantages of Linux. Killing the license advantages would be difficult to impossible, but their distro will probably make installing another ISP difficult to impossible, make AOL the default player and editor for everything... I don't like that. AOL 7.0 has a media player that sets itself as defauly. I put a CD in my moms pc, AOL loaded.

    If AOL does buy red hat, and leaves red hat more or less alone to develop linux, and only uses linux itself to build devices like webpads and such it shouldn't be a problem. And if AOL takes the opportunity to create an AOL for Linux, that could get us more users, and an opportunity to enlighten literally MILLIONS of sheep who stick with windows just cause of AOL.

    Overall, I'm neutral... I can see this helping and hurting the Linux world.
  • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NospAM.gmail.com> on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:31PM (#2866558)
    Thats exactly it, really. I was being utterly serious when I suggested it.

    Think about. Take AOL, with Mozilla for the web, mail, and a shared family calendar. Throw in the instant messenger aspect of it. Throw in Winamp and a nifty CD player. Throw in all the proprietary features and content. Throw in a little special version of Abiword. Throw in a special version Gnumeric.

    Bammo, Batman. An AOL-based subscription funded OS that provides 95% of the day-to-day functionality that most people (AOL people, actually) tend to use.

    That'd be a good thing. And the end of the MS monopoly for both geeks (who can already run Linux) and for non-geeks (who could just use AOL-OS).
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Some Dumbass... (192298) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:33PM (#2866569)
    While AOL could provide a huge shot in the arm to Linux (it wont make a huge jump to the desktop without being able to run AOL, sad but true), what geek wants to run an AOL OS?? Would AOL/TW put their icons everywhere, or try to include DRM in it?? AOL/TW isn't much better than MS after all, they cater to the lowest common denominator.

    There's nothing wrong with a "lowest common denominator" version of Linux. Why should Linux be just for geeks? This will just be another distro, and there can be as many Linux distros as are needed. The geeks will just use a different one (Slackware, Debian, etc.)

    Even the people who are presently using RedHat wouldn't be hurt much by this. I bet that if AOL bought RedHat, some community-supported distro based on the last release of RedHat would emerge (minus any proprietary software, of course) and fans of the "old" RedHat would just shift over to using that.

  • Oh my God (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twilight30 (84644) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:36PM (#2866594) Homepage
    This scares me. Yes, it would be good for the mainstream, if they bought into it.

    However, I think this would be disastrous for the Linux community at large.

    Part of the cachet of using a Red Hat distribution amongst the fringes of 'our little group' comes from its perceived independence -- I know it has plenty of investment from other computing companies, but it's a whole new ball of wax to consider the media giants of today.

    Ultimately, it is this part I dislike the most about the rumour. I understand that Linux going mainstream means a move towards some form of meme shift. What I am worried about is the perception will be when America's biggest Linux firm becomes part of that media machine. Do we really need to have a Linux vendor in the grip of a media company? [thenation.com]

    On the other hand, this could represent AOL's desire to pull an OS X shift in the minds of x86 computer users. It's a flawed idea, not least because they have no 'sophisticated' computing experience to draw from, but an interesting one.

    Unfortunately, the thought of it makes me quite ill.

  • by ahfoo (223186) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:45PM (#2866633) Journal
    If AOL wants a Linux distro why don't they just make their own?
    Just a few boxes down we see the Sorcerer distro being discussed. It's not as though there aren't already scores of distros to choose from.
    AOL could make a proprietary download system that only worked with an AOL account. That would seem more AOLish than teaming up with Red Hat which provides you with plenty of net access alternatives.
    After all, AOL has been all about limiting the broader potential of the Internet and charging more money for less real net access and in exchange offering lots of useless cluttery crap. It's a ridiculous premise, but they pulled it off so far. Why would they suddenly get cozy with a distro that makes their core business irrelevant?
    Of course they could make a version of Red Hat that only worked with an AOL account, but that would certainly be a big change for Red Hat. They'd probably have a hard time getting the existing user base on board with that kind of strategy.
    I don't know though, like most /.ers, I never understood how in the world AOL ever became so widespread and probably never will.
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:56PM (#2866685)
    "While AOL could provide a huge shot in the arm to Linux (it wont make a huge jump to the desktop without being able to run AOL, sad but true), what geek wants to run an AOL OS??"

    I for one wouldn't mind. Keep in mind that, while it is AOHell we're talking about, it's also Linux, which means the user is free to open up the innards of it and take out what they don't like. Unhappy about how the way the file manager is tied to your web browser? Microsoft says "screw you" while Linux says "modify it."

    I was about to ask what this might mean for Mandrake, but then I just realized that Mandrake would be the prime people to de-commercialize any AOLinux releases.

    Oh, and I'm probably in the minority for saying this, but I don't use Gaim, I use the actual AIM client for Linux (not as pretty but it's more stable for me). And speaking of AIM, it's the only instant messaging software I can think of that actually HAS a Linux release.

    "AOL/TW isn't much better than MS after all, they cater to the lowest common denominator."

    Then it will probably end up as a "gateway distro" for most users, the way that the kernel-hacking Aunt Tillie from several articles back got her start. Just because you use AOL doesn't mean you stick with it for years and years. I started on Prodigy, but then I disovered local BBSes.

    I'm still having difficulty seeing this as being anything but an overall Good Thing...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2002 @11:56PM (#2866688)
    OTOH, AOL has antagonized The Beast(tm) with the bitter rivarly over browsers and media players. Let's not forget IM clients (who's the biggest? Whooooose your daddy??). Why NOT AOL using their own co-branded version of LInux? Their revenue stream would not be affected by adopting a ''rival'' to Windoze, unlike M$- which stands to lose MUCH more.

    As long as they abide by the terms of the GPL, I'm all for it.

    The spillover effect to the OEMs might even shock the most fervent of us ABMers in short order. The possibilites boggle the mind. Imagine a KDE/GNOME/AOL desktop with the 100's of free programs out there ...

    AOL- are you listening?
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous DWord (466154) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:06AM (#2866734) Homepage
    Maybe they'll even put pressure on the Winmodem manufacturers to release Linux drivers

    Excellent point. I can't count the number of times I've evangelized Linux to somebody, only to have them say "and can I surf the net and stuff?," only to have to reply with chagrin, "well, that depends..." People (especially someone for whom AOL is an answer to anything) don't understand the politics or the technology behind Windmodems. They just want it to dial up to check their mail. I think if AOL could make Linux simple enough for Joe User, it would be great. They're not forcing you to use it.
  • You've got Linux! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Erris (531066) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:21AM (#2866788) Homepage Journal
    I don't see the problems. You will still be able to modify things to suit you. AOL users will get what they want. Red Hat will be assured survival under the world's largest ISP. Microsoft will improve or die.

    There is no way for AOL to destroy the modular design of Linux/GNU software. To do so, they would have to custom modify and maintain far too many packages. Why would they go to such effort and cost? The average AOL user never ever bothers to venture furthers that far, so "digital rights management" and advert cramming will be maintained by default, just like they are on M$ platforms today. AOL useres actually use AOL's client and browser there and they will under Linux. You will still be able to replace bogus packages and use the ones you want.

    What this is going to be, is AOL being able to send out a shiny new CD when M$ breaks their customer's machines. The customer can sit happy knowing that they won't have to buy a new computer and that they can get the things they expect from AOL. My mom is a good example. She has used her computers for three application and only three applications. She has used AOL, Word Perfect, and Quicken. I'm not sure she uses Quicken any more. She uses AOL's instant messenger and email. The rest of her computer means nothing to her, and could be running anything. When ME meets it's two year obsolescence and her flaming nice PIII laptop starts spitting chunks, I hope AOL sends her a nice Red Hat CD. The other stuff, like Netscape, Electric Eyes, Gimp .... might have her actually use her machine some more and definatly enjoy it more. If AOL bought Correl, she would be very happy indeed.

    This could kill Microsoft. It's one thing for my mom to have some friends and her son using Linux, it's another thing when she gets it, it works and does everything she wants it to. AOL has 100 million clients, think of the change in perception the world will have if just 1% revive their dead machines this way instead of buying a new $1,000 computer. AOL users, the scorn of M$ elitist derision having computers that work and cost less. Supposedly the most clueless computer population on earth suddenly having tools and stability M$ loosers pay big money for but never recieve. Surely word of mouth will sweep the world, and M$'s already weakened position with hardware makers will collapse.

    Reasonable hardware standards may yet see light of day. Without M$ to hord up ever changing API's and that magic flag on the box, we may see hardware maintains stable open interfaces. I am trully filled with hope today. This is great news.

  • by sultanoslack (320583) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:26AM (#2866815)
    No, I don't think many people would switch. Maybe only a few million. But, I think you would start to see AOL-OS coming from OEMs and I think people would buy it. I don't think the average AOL user is going to reinstall their operating system no matter how much AOL dumbs it down. And plus, it'll never happen, it's leverage man.
  • by Sleepy (4551) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:32AM (#2866840) Homepage
    Why do people talk out their asses in regard to AOL's handling of subsidaries?

    1) AOL was "embarrassed" when Nullsoft produced Gnutella, and forced them to stop. http://www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/2752.html

    2) Nullsoft was interviewed somewhere (sorry no URL), and they complained that they WANTED to compete against Napster, and add download plugins to winamp, but AOL forbade it.

    Sorry, that sounds like stifling innovation. AOL wants to be Microsoft, but office politics and infighting will just slow these companies down. Microsoft on the other hand has a clear cut mission... to become a world power.

    I don't believe these rumors one bit. It's a lame rumor, and Red Hat is not in trouble (unlike Netscape).

    It would make MUCH more sense for AOL to purchase Linux-Mandrake, or the Corel 2.0 assets (which I never used, but Corel 1.0 was seriously ahead of its time). Red Hat is a server OS, and their desktop marketshare is just a side-effect of their server success. Most Red Hat users have never TRIED another distro, and so could not tell you how RH is better or worse than another distro (they're not all the same!).
  • by yerricde (125198) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:33AM (#2866842) Homepage Journal

    We support standards. The standard for browsing web pages is not Netscape, it's not W3XXX, it is IE(4,5,6).

    Can you provide a reference to publicly available (even for a nominal fee) official documentation in the English language as to what constitutes a conforming implementation of such a standard? (In other words, where can I obtain docs about the IE DOM?)

    We will degrade gracefully on the other platforms

    In order to degrade gracefully, you will have to make all content reasonably accessible to all users [w3.org]. Frown on framesets and unnecessary ECMAScript. Frown on images without appropriate alt text. Frown on sites mostly made in Flash because the visually impaired cannot use Flash content, whereas they can use HTML through a screenreader or Braille display and a text-mode browser such as Lynx, Links, or w3m.

    and freely distribute IE (free to distribute after all) to those poor users who don't have IE today.

    IE for x86 architecture is part of Microsoft Windows. Where can I pick up my free copy of Windows? And how can I make sure that my copy of IE won't catch Son of Nimda from your server?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:35AM (#2866849)
    On the other hand, perhaps it would just cause RedHat to simply stagnate, too busy integrating corporate systems and dealing with lost employees to do much of anything else. Certainly the Netscape buyout hasn't exactly set the world on fire yet.

    What you're not considering here is that Netscape was already well down the toilet when AOL bought them. That Mozilla/Netscape survive at all is due to the fact AOL has plenty of money to squander on unprofitable hare-brained projects that might pay off some day. In contrast, RedHat is a small company on the rise, and with a push and an infusion of cash from AOL, this could be a real shot in the arm.

    Consider, even if RedHat goes down the toilet as a geek distribution, what is left over still will receive the residual benefits. Obviously, Linux support would become a hell of a lot higher priority for hardware/software vendors. Even if they targeted a proprietary AOL Linux, the rest of us can still benefit. Hell, we get Windows applications to run on Linux, we get Winmodems to run under Linux. In comparison, getting something that runs on a wierd version of Linux to run on a standard distro should be a snap.
  • by ryanvm (247662) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:35AM (#2866851)
    AOL/TW isn't much better than MS after all, they cater to the lowest common denominator.

    If you hate Microsoft because their products are for the "lowest common denominator", then you are hating them for the wrong reason.

    My complaint with Microsoft is not that their products are inferior. Generally, after the 3rd or 4th version, they aren't.

    The worst of Microsoft's problems can be attributed to one major flaw: If you're not paying your "Microsoft Tax", they aren't very happy with you.
  • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NospAM.gmail.com> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:43AM (#2866877)
    No, you dont need a desktop!

    AOL is the desktop! People know it and use it! Throw a few more icons for other apps and bingo, compile in some apps as MDI children, and bingo, AOL is the new desktop.

    As for hardware. Can you say "AOL Compatible"?
  • by billstewart (78916) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:44AM (#2866880) Journal
    Customer: ... and now it wants me to recompile the kernel.


    Tech: Sure, you start by uninstalling GCC 2.9.7 and reinstalling GCC 2.7, and be sure to get the right RPMs to support your sound card.

  • by DorianGre (61847) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:44AM (#2866882)
    This is the best thing that could happen to linux right now. To break the MS Monopoly, linux has to mainstream. OSX won't do it, BeOS is dead, BSD is further behind on the desktop than linux is. Are you waiting for solaris to suddenly take off? Lindows is the first good idea I have heard in quite a while, except this. This might just do the impossible, not to mention setting a standard for a lot of the industry that will bring more jobs to those of you who do linux for a living. It may also provide a standard desktop config, so we can get on to building cross-compatible apps.
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dieman (4814) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:44AM (#2866884) Homepage
    No, the longer time was because of the massive engine rewrites, duh.
  • by ocelotbob (173602) <ocelot@ocelotbPARISob.org minus city> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:58AM (#2866936) Homepage
    If AOL wants a Linux distro why don't they just make their own?
    Probably because Redhat has a huge talent base. If you're going to enter a new market, wouldn't you want some talent, like Alan Cox, working for you? Yes, there are scores of distros out there, but only a few with people high up in the Linux chain of power. Besides, Redhat is The Name in Linux; they'd be able to better negotiate with third parties if they had Redhat in their posession.
    After all, AOL has been all about limiting the broader potential of the Internet and charging more money for less real net access and in exchange offering lots of useless cluttery crap. It's a ridiculous premise, but they pulled it off so far. Why would they suddenly get cozy with a distro that makes their core business irrelevant?

    I'd say that it's more giving the average person what they want. Face it, having a different program for every internet function is great for techies, but it's too complicated for the average person. Besides, I'd say having an OS they can control in its entirety is a plus for AOL - they can control exactly where it's going, and how to program for it, instead of having to twostep with the other 800 pound gorilla [microsoft.com].

    Also, for the average person, the internet is moving away from being a computer thing, and more towards being part of the home entertainment system, integrated into the TV and/or cable box. AOL is no dummy, they know that Microsoft is going to go in that market with both guns blazing trying to push a Windows/MSN service on these boxes, and shove AOL right out of the market. Trust me, AOL's going to need an OS if they're going to stay alive in the changing market.

    I don't know though, like most /.ers, I never understood how in the world AOL ever became so widespread and probably never will.

    Just like Microsoft, they weren't the best solution, they just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Yeah. they're not the best, but they're good enough for most people. Remember the 85% rule here. As long as it's good enough for 85% of a market, you're pretty much set. The other 15% is marginalized enough that it would be a waste of resources to attempt to take it over. AOL's ust not concerned about the technically inclined segment of the market.

  • by Jimithing DMB (29796) <dfe@noSPaM.tgwbd.org> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:16AM (#2867007) Homepage

    Everybody who has posted this obviously didn't read it correctly. It is said soon after the author mentions an AOL product for Sony's PlayStation 2. Thus the sentence "Linux also runs the Sony product" means "Linux also runs AOL's Sony product" which I assume is factually correct seeing as how the product they are referring to is an AOL for the PS2 running Netscape under Linux.

    So it seems AOL may actually have a method to its madness. It seems they are interested in buying up as many technologies as possible to drive their online subscribtion service.

    People, this makes /so much/ business sense. AOL is in the business of getting repeated revenues. Every month they get $23+ from almost every subscriber. They offer a service that many computer users find usefull. Usefull enough that they are willing to part with over $20 a month for it while other ISPs tried to price compete and most are dead.

    When AOL bought Netscape everybody groaned. JWZ left and everybody said good for him, fuck working for AOL. But AOL didn't care. They had no rush to get the new version of Netscape out. They didn't fall into the trap of trying to get as many people as possible to use their free (as in price) software like MS did with IE. No instead what they did is basically sat on it while they continued to make buckets of cash (did I mention revenue at over $20/month for almost every subscriber).

    Now they've got a bunch of subscribers, mostly inexperienced computer users, who mostly use their computer for running AOL and probably MS Works (not Office, just Works, plus maybe plain old Word without the rest of Office). These are the people that are easy to move to a different OS. These are the people who don't care as long as they can get on AOL and they can type up some stuff in a word processor. It's never the OS that people care about, it's always the applications.

    The only thorn in AOLs side is that all of these subscribers must have MS Windows and MS Internet Explorer to do this. But wait.. they bought Netscape a few years ago and do you think that reports of them using Netscape in some internal betas were just leaked mistakenly? Think again.. that was a big fuck-you to Microsoft. The only thing left is to replace Windows with something else. What worked before will work again... so go look for a company to buy. Let's see.. who has an OS with small but somewhat increasing market share and has the technical know-how to make it work right... hmm.. how about Red Hat. The people here saying they should have gone after Mandrake are forgetting that (I hate to say this and start a flamewar) Mandrake blows. Remember that article earlier about moving from RH6.2 to Mandrake 8 saying that the kernel 2.4 that Mandrake uses just wasn't stable for production use. RH is very active with this. RH knows their kernels and employs several developers who know what they are doing. I don't mean to say that Mandrake is a bunch of morons either. But from my experience Red Hat has had a more quality product (if even only slightly).

    Also, to you people who think that AOL is gonna attempt some coup d'etat with MS... think again. Believe me they'll keep their current customers happy. But at the same time they'll hype the hell out of their new improved product that just boots you directly into AOL. Also, don't think they won't test this first. What do you think the whole PlayStation 2 thing is about. That looks to me as if it is blatantly a testbed to see how customers will respond to basically just running AOL on their computers.

    AOL seems to me to be doing business the right way. Get lots of repeat customers and keep those customers happy and continue to get lots of repeat revenue. Also: diversify. Own as much different shit as you can. This will keep your profits stable. The company I am working for now (no it's not AOL) follows the diversification strategy. Any good company does. My dad has drilled this into me. He worked for an electric/gas utility company and always pointed out that the best thing they could do was keep it as both electric and gas because that means pretty much no matter what happens they got the bases covered. They also had a company which installed generators into places of business which wanted to generate their own power and not depend on the utility. Basically in direct competition with themselves but.. hmm, wait.. that means they get the money either way, especially considering they weren't just selling the product, but the expertise with maintaing it (on a recurring basis of course). ;-)

    Just remember, money and self-interest are not all bad. When balanced properly with ethics capitalism makes the world go 'round.

  • by schwap (191462) <beauh AT schwoogle DOT org> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:17AM (#2867014) Homepage
    I would rather see IBM buy RedHat. Why? Because they know technology. And it seems, that they have learned from their own mistakes and the mistakes of others. A large media company will only be able to do what it does best: leverage mind-share and sell it's content. A company like IBM is the nuts and bolts behind so much technology and infrastructure. They know what they are doing. Well, maybe not completely; but Ted Turner is going to have a lot harder time adapting to selling something they dont even create, let alone control.
  • by homer_ca (144738) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:30AM (#2867082)
    Or more likely to be reduced to a bargaining chip against Microsoft. The threat of switching all those millions of AOLers to a non-IE browser is more useful to AOL than the browser itself. They've come out with 3 or 4 new AOL software versions in the time Mozilla's been under development. I *think* they could have released *some* kind of finished browser if they really tried, and I don't mean the half-assed Netscape 6.0 based on Mozilla 0.7.
  • AOL's strategy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jimithing DMB (29796) <dfe@noSPaM.tgwbd.org> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:31AM (#2867092) Homepage

    AOLs strategy is simple.. get $20+/month revenue from each and every subscriber from a steadily increasing number of subscribers.

    What the hell is MSes strategy? The only thing MS seems to want is to monopolize. They don't even seem to necessarily want to directly make money. They just want every PC to run MS software. That is almost a /direct/ quote from Bill Gates himself, something like "A PC on every desk running Microsoft software".

    I think AOL has a clear advantage here. MS is trying to play the our technology is better card. AOL is playing the our service is better card. 'Cept more and more people are starting to realize that MS's software is overpriced and generally sucks while at the same time more and more new computer users are signing up for AOL and most of the ones that already have AOL are keeping it. AOL has excellent brand loyalty. MS really doesn't. The only thing keeping MS everywhere is MS's monopoly.

    Anyway... as for the "bigger picture" that is a load of crap. You don't make good money speculating on what the next development paradigm will be. You make good money by having loyal customers who give you money on a repeat basis. Wonder why people like free software? Because there isn't any of that crap about trying to come up with a development platform. MS has created that market for themselves to live in. Everyone else functions in the real world where you leave that sort of shit up to the academic world and make your money selling finished, working products (something MS has pretty much been unable to ever do).

  • by FyRE666 (263011) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:47AM (#2867327) Homepage

    What does IE 6 have that Mozilla lacks (other than market share, which can change once the next version of Concept Virus hits)?


    I'm not sure how you have your system set up, but on all the machines I've worked with, Mozilla starts up noticably more slowly than IE5/6. In fact, it's sometimes so slow I've seen people click repeatedly on the desktop icon to start it up! IE starts up instantly, which is not surprising as it's practically running from the point the desktop appears.

    This isn't the main problem though; what IE6 has over Moz is speed. Any sort of animated content is slower under Mozilla - in fact dHTML performance is absolutely abysmal (interestingly, NS4 is faster than either for most dHTML animations, but its numerous other problems more than offset this)!

    If you monitor CPU usage when using IE and NS/Moz, you'll notice the latter can often hit 100% when handling animated content, whereas it's rare to see IE over 40-50%, even on low spec machines.

    I'd like to see Moz improve - a LOT - but as a web developer, I have to be realistic in my assesment, and NS6/Moz is no-where near IE on the Windows platform. I don't even use it with Linux any more; Konqueror seems much faster for animation, renders pages quicker, and is more resource efficient.
  • by moncyb (456490) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @03:21AM (#2867398) Journal

    HEY SLASHDOT PEOPLE! Let's have a Poll - best free MP3/ogg/wav/cd player...

    Goody! A poll

    • MP3 - That would have to be madplay, although I currently don't have it installed as I don't use MP3s much anymore, and mpg123 is good enough...
    • OGG -- ogg123 works great, why shouldn't I use the one directly from the source!
    • WAV -- I made my own little player--the binary is less than 3k stripped, and has no library dependancies (including libc!) I also has the ability to play gzipped wavs by piping through gzip.
    • CD player -- Again I made my own little one, although I don't use it much as I play my CDs from my harddrive nowadays (I saved them using cdda2wav and oggenc)

    What was my point in telling you that? Well, for one thing, I'm just demonstrating that such a poll wouldn't help your point--as /. users probably choose between a diverse number of media players. However, if such a poll were to take place I bet the #1 would probably end up being MS's "Windows Media Player"--most likely a narrow margin for this crowd though. Xmms would probably be #2. I doubt Winamp would even make the top ten.

    ...and your point about Netscape/Mozilla being better than IE is a crap point. That's like saying using a blender instead of a lawn mower is better for keeping your hand attached! ;-) Yeah, I know the other guy made the opposite argument--same comment applies. ;-)

    You say that AOL pushes technology...then 2 lines downy you say they care nothing for technology, just money.

    I think his point was that AOL exploits technology to make money and attract then exploit customers.

    I don't believe that AOL buying RedHat would be good for RedHat, but they (IMHO) are a crappy company anyway. It may be good for the Linux community: the more Linux is on the desktop, the more hardware manufacturers will be willing to write device drivers for Linux (or at least release enough specs so that others can.) I don't know...maybe they'll bastardize RedHat's version of the kernel so much that it wouldn't help...who knows?

    If you need compatible chat clients, just get an account and use Gaim or Jabber or Imici or Trillian (so far Trill is win-only, i am not sure what your rant is about there).

    I'm not sure what his argument might be, but mine is that IM systems shouldn't be tied to one organization. They should be able to implement them so that you can use anyone's servers, not just AOL's--kind of like email. One of the major reasons that instant messaging has this problem, like Microsoft in its spheres of dominance, AOL has fought portibility on every front in this area.

  • by Shanes (141586) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @03:28AM (#2867416)
    ..., and given that most of their servers run on HPUX or Solaris (And the associated hardware), it would not surprise me if this was a result of their work.

    Couldn't it be that they want Red Hat (with their tech people) mainly for the servers then? It makes lots of sense to start using Linux on new servers as they expand. And later go all the way and kick out HPUX and Solaris completely.

  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cymen (8178) <cymenvig&gmail,com> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @03:38AM (#2867443) Homepage
    But you seem to be assuming AOL is going to take RedHat and sodomize it out back. That simply isn't likely. While Mandrake is great in the eyes of many people it isn't a real distrib. I'm sure these days they do all their packaging but lets not forget where they started - a hacked RedHat install. AOL could buy RedHat and continue to invade markets besides their own users desktops. RedHat is a viable business here in the US. Mandrake is not. RedHat has infrastructure in place. Mandrake does not.


    Personally I would see a lot more value in RedHat than Mandrake... With RedHat AOL would have a company that they owned and could control the direction of but it could still be independent of AOL/TW. Mandrake simply isn't a viable option.


    My .02 and I'm sure they are worth less :).

  • by Cardinal (311) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @04:14AM (#2867505)
    A few people have touched on this, but if put together, the strategy becomes clear, and simple.

    AOL needs to fight MS in every way it can. AOL's known this for years, which is why they partnered with Sun & Netscape, and why they're buying strategic projects. Think about the most visible points of contact with MS software.

    * MSN Service, IM
    AOL's got these, always have. But picking up ICQ was a quick way to buy up a bigger userbase. MS is actually the ones fighting back on this front, partnering agressively with broadband providers like Qwest to push MSN-branded net access.

    * IE
    AOL has used IE as long as they've had a browser, but you can be sure it's not because they liked the idea. There just wasn't a viable non-MS browser out there. You can be sure they'll switch to NS6 as soon as they feel it's ready.
    * Media Player
    A biggie. Especially with the changes made in XP. MS wants to push WMP as the RIAA-friendly media, figuring if they can get support from the labels, it won't matter what the users want, because WMP will be the one that has the copy protection the RIAA will support. AOL picked up WinAmp because it was the player with the best chance of pushing back against WMP.

    * IIS
    All three partners in the deal, AOL, Sun, and Netscape, went in with one goal in mind. Fight MS. Did it work? Eh, not really. But they've still got a lot of NS server software available for use at some point, if they can find a good use.

    * Windows
    So, picking up a Linux distro is perfectly logical for them. They're trying as best they can on all the above fronts, so why not pick up an OS and push it as an alternative? Imagine what a company with AOL's media control powers could do with RedHat. Build AOL services right into the desktop, stick it in a set-top (To fight WebTV).
  • by DarenN (411219) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @05:47AM (#2867657) Homepage

    I am sick of this.
    Yes, Nike may have 3rd world "sweatshops". But, If you were starting a company and could get cheaper overall costs by using 3rd world labour, you would. You would not pay these people the average industrial wage of the western world. The Nike people get paid, get food. That's a lot more than many people in the 3rd world do. In the end, Nike is helping their economies, and thus the future of the country

    And as for sweatshops, I worked on the line in Dell Europe, and I can tell you, it's not all a cakewalk on this side of the planet either.

    Now I'm going to get Moded into oblivion, but just remember that just because a company uses 3rd world labour does not automatically make them the Root Of All Evil
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @07:53AM (#2867845)
    I use AOL. I read Slashdot every day, I've used Linux (waiting for my new hard drive before I dual boot - I just don't want to play around with partitions) I know the differences between most of the distros, and to be frank, I know more about Linux than anyone I know in person (sad but true).

    So why do I use AOL? I live in the UK, and AOL is BY FAR the best unlimited access dial-up service available. (Getting broadband is just too pricey right now.)

    What is the major thing stopping me from switching to Linux altogether? It's not Word or Excel, it's not Internet Explorer (LOL) it's the lack of AOL. I have about 7 years worth of saved emails in my AOL Personal Filing Cabinet, which I NOW realise are pretty much lost forever as soon as I switch services (this is unless someone has reverse-engineered the file format, which I haven't seen done well in AOL's case)

    At least I have a good computer. My father, who has a slower computer (ideal for Linux) will not swap, solely because of the lack of AOL. He's no dummy either. He's been using computers since well before the Commodore PET, and programming since then too. He doesn't want to leave mostly because all his friends know his email address.

    I guess this has got a bit long, but the point is PLEASE don't assume that all AOL users are idiots, and/or know nothing about Linux. In the US, you may have free local calls to your ISP. In the UK, unless you're on AOL, don't expect to do that and be able to connect even 1 out of 5 times that you dial up.

    I've posted anonymously, because my message is more important than my identity.
  • by lrichardson (220639) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @08:42AM (#2867930) Homepage
    "You have to remember though that the people that run AOL don't have the foggiest idea who Red Hat is."

    Despite how bad it has been, AOL has made massive improvements over the last few years. Still got a way to go, but ...

    Switching to a Linux base would be another step on the road - faster, more stable, and no rebooting after the latest 'service pack' ;)

    If it goes through, I foresee a situation like IE vs Netscape, except, in this scenario, millions of homes get a CD with a 'free' OS. There are a growing number of people out there who only use their machine for the net (surfing, e-mail, IM, etc). And there's a small number of companies that sell machines that run from a single CD. MS is no slacker in the 'marketing dirty tricks' division, but AOL could do serious, long term damage with their 'CD in every household' approach.

    AOL managers may not know the technical side of Red Hat, but I'm pretty sure they understand what it means to the overall game plan. Two quotes come to mind, one about it's not necessary to make a large profit of every item you sell, as long as it means your competitor doesn't sell one; and from Netscape eons ago, to the effect that every time they sold a copy, it ran on Windows, so the two companies remained tied, but whenver a user opted for IE, then Microsoft won, so that Netscape could never win while it ran under Windows.

    The implication is quite clear - if AOL wants to 'win', the best way would be to support an alternative OS.

  • by hmarq (240484) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @09:39AM (#2868062) Homepage
    Folks have been bemoaning "Linux on the Desktop" for a few years now -- you want Linux on the desktop? RHAOL, bundled with StarOffice (or Open Office) ... stick it on an inexpensive Duron platform and the AOL terminal is reborn ... it connects to the internet, does 'Office' stuff, comes installed on your computer and has a low price point --

    You're wish is granted. Are you happy now?
  • by nizo (81281) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @10:33AM (#2868222) Homepage Journal
    When AOL bought Netscape (and weren't they making deals with Gateway for awhile there?) I thought FOR SURE they were going to offer an "AOL machine" through Gateway running Linux. Imagine the possibilities: user calls in, saying machine is broken. No problem says the tech, just slip in your recovery CD/floppy which causes your machine to dial in to some number somewhere (maybe setting the root password to a default) and I will LOG INTO your machine and fix it. Not to mention that if the user wasn't root, it would be hard for him to trash the whole machine, just his account. This situation seems IDEAL for joe user who reads email, does wordprocessing, and surfs the web (help out loki and you get games too :-) ). All without hefty fees to M$.
  • by Roblimo (357) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @11:05AM (#2868345) Homepage Journal
    I know Gary, the guy who runs AOL news, and they leave him totally, completely alone. He says upper management has never, not once, tried to push coverage in any particular direction or stop him from running stories that were anti-AOL.

    But I doubt that AOL would want to buy OSDN. Their mentality is "buy the market leader (in whatever field)." They'd be more likely to go after C|Net if they wanted to get into tech-specific news. OSDN is tiny compared to the now-combined C|Net/ZDNet empire.

    This "buy the market leader" mentality is why you're reading about AOL (maybe thinking about) buying Red Hat rather than Mandrake or Redmond Linux or any other Linux distribution publisher, BTW.

    Sure, AOL/TW is greedy, grasping, evil etc., but having a company as greedy/grasping as Microsoft *competing* directly with Microsoft's graspingness means at least a slight cut in the overall greediness either company would be able to display. Consumers would win from the competition.

    The rest of us would just need to make sure we weren't anyplace these dueling dinosaurs could fall on us. We'd have to be mammals; small, lithe and adaptable by comparison...

    - Robin
  • by TheKingOfCowards (551895) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:53PM (#2868742)
    This quote scares me: There's nothing more grand, more worthwile, and more deserving of our respect than profit. Nothing. I seriously hope you do not believe this. There are things which do not cost anything but have lots of value. take linux for example. Also am I to Respect the latest megabucks winner and hail him as a shinning example of what humanity can achieve? Am I to respect Organized crime and drug lords who enslave their own population for money? I encourage you to rethink your position. while looking at the economic viewpoint of things is somthing alot of the slashdot community lacks. It should not be the only viewpoint you have.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:53PM (#2869221)
    "In the end, Nike is hurting their economies. Primitive economies are built on hard goods trade and labor."

    I'd say they are helping them. Third world countries often have cheap labour, lack of environmental laws and sometimes raw resources as their sole competitive advantages. If they did not have those advantages would ANY company be there when they could be closer to their markets and save on shipping and bring products to market quicker?

    "IF Nike pulls out of one of these villages, the local economy instantly collapses, then will make a gradual recovery."

    What are they using to recover? Another mega corp? Perhaps cash crops that they plant cause the IMF told them?

    "The mosquito can make a meal of a human for life, but not if she's given half a drop every week."

    Perhaps if the the governments of these third world countries got together in a trade sumit, they could reach common standards of pay and work safety that would benefit their populations and deny companies the ability to find places where they could run roughshod as they now do.

    Oh wait they have but jackboot thug protestors from other countries know better then their leaders (democratically elected in some cases) what their needs are and what goes on behind closed doors so they disrupt the process.

    Bottom line. If you don't like "slave labour" avoid the corps products.
  • GPL to the rescue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ogerman (136333) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @03:01PM (#2869263)
    If anyone has been looking for a good example of why the GPL's anti-proprietary protections make it superior to the BSD license, here's a great one. (from a community perspective at least..) Imagine if Linux and associated GNU software used the BSD license instead. AOL could buy RedHat and then release a proprietary kernel, libc, etc. with DRM integrated throughout, backdoors as desired, phone-home capability to reap marketing data, forced advertisements, and other horrible evils. With GPL, the worst they can do is include a proprietary version of Mozilla and perhaps a DRM kernel module, which both can be easily removed. So if AOL ships out GPL'ed software, you can be rest assured that it is the real thing or at least come with full source to document any potentially undesirable changes. With BSD, we'd be screwed.

    Saying that the GPL is less free than BSD is like saying the US is less free without slavery.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell

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