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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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  • by Ptolemarch (11506) <davidhand.davidhand@com> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:10AM (#2866435) Homepage

    It's interesting: AOL has bought almost all of the coolest stuff on the Net: Netscape, ICQ, WinAMP. Don't forget that Gnutella came out of there, too.

    And they've let all of them, so far, mostly be their own companies.

  • by Graabein (96715) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:11AM (#2866437) Homepage Journal
    I guess this means we'll see a lot of "digital rights management" software and utilities etc. on Linux.

    No more playing DivX movies on RedHat! ;-)

  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:11AM (#2866439)
    For the same reason AtHome bought Excite - because John Doerr told them to. Yes VCs have that much power. KPCB made huge investments in both Netscape and Excite, and once they saw their stock turning south, they simply employed other members of the KPCB "kieretsu" (sp?) to convert the shares into what was perceived to be more valuable assets.

    KPCB has a long history of leveraging his full constellation of companies to maintain KPCB influence - and this is why he is often referred to as the most powerful man in Silicon Valley.

  • There you go (Score:1, Interesting)

    by kitts (545683) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:13AM (#2866456) Homepage
    Fight monopoly with monopoly. Wonderful!

    Why do I have a sudden urge to start downloading FreeBSD?
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by orkysoft (93727) <orkysoft@myrealb[ ]com ['ox.' in gap]> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:19AM (#2866490) Journal
    Well, if there were many people using AOL Linux with DRM, other people could distribute programs that would re-enable fair use.

    Maybe AOL will create a really easy to use installer tool that will auto-detect virtually all hardware. Maybe they'll even put pressure on the Winmodem manufacturers to release Linux drivers? A majority of AOL's customers has these things nowadays, after all.

    It could definitely make Linux more mainstream, albeit probably a somewhat dumbed-down Linux. But that doesn't need to be too bad. Why would your aunt need to recompile a kernel anyway?
  • Netscape (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fuzzy (87584) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:21AM (#2866501) Homepage Journal
    "same reason they bought Netscape"

    ...which is now the leading browser on how many desktops?

    Personally, I'd hate to see RedHat turned into yet another media commodity, I would like to see them succeed, even if they never exceed the desktop penetration of Apple!

    You don't have to be the biggest dog on the block to be profitable, and successful!
  • by Enahs (1606) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:21AM (#2866502) Journal
    "I got me Linux 7.2!"

    I guess you're new to the world of Linux, so I'll be charitable. Red Hat merely produces a distribution centred around the Linux kernel, GNU tools, and a raftload of other software.

    Linus Torvalds, father of the kernel and current head honcho of kernel development, works for Transmeta, not Red Hat.

    How does that work, you ask? Simple. The only person who "owns" anything related to Linux is Linus, who holds the trademark for Linux. If Red Hat (or, in the future, AOL) were to get too asinine with the use of the Red Hat name, as they have done recently, it's conceivable that Linus could simply tell them they haven't the right to call their product "Red Hat Linux" anymore.

    The world of Linux is far more complex than the world of Microsoft, for many reasons.

  • Re:A Worry (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EvilOpie (534946) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:24AM (#2866517) Homepage
    I can't see it as being one, really. After all, the reason that Netscape isn't doing so well is because that people became too lazy to install it and used IE as default. (the same can be said for mozilla, opera, and the other browsers too) I know I've converted technical people to mozilla when I simply showed them how well it works when it comes to blocking javascript popup ads after you set it up to do so.

    So Red Hat will probably go the same way that it always has been... those that want to install it, will.
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by minusthink (218231) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:25AM (#2866525)
    Initially I was horrified at the thought of AOL adds all over the place, but then look at what AOL did with winamp - basically nothing. Same development team, I haven't seen any AOL logos or anything of the type (though I haven't used it much), etc.

    AOL did buy Nullsoft right?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:26AM (#2866529)
    I've seen it mentioned that if this goes through, AOL will have some measure of control over Linux, and this could hamper Linux's competitiveness. This is an interesting problem, considering that Linus has control over the kernel. It seems to me that, if Linus really wanted to, he could "break" a distro, by modifying the kernel enough that the entire distro would have to be re-written. Obviously the somewhat underhanded nature of this makes it unlikely, but if Linux users really didn't like the direction that AOL was taking Linux, it might be the only option.

    Another problem: if one does attempt to "break" a distro in this manner, how can one prevent AOL from simply making its own improvements to the kernel, and putting its distro on top of that? In other words, if AOL's distro becomes standard, could AOL have more control over Linux than Linus does?

  • by mlsemon2 (413798) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:26AM (#2866530) Homepage
    Agreed. When I see Netscape bundled with AOL instead of IE, then I'll believe the speculations in the Post article (beyond the Red Hat buyout rumors).

    Maybe AOL is waiting for all the pieces to fall into place, when Steve Case can hit The Big Red Button and switch everyone to the AOL/TW computing solution. I doubt it, though. I think it's just people with more money than brains.

    I'm glad that my two Slackware systems won't be affected :-)
  • Re:A carton of feces (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hobuddy (253368) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:27AM (#2866536)

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

    Oh, come on! Most consumers today either haven't heard of Linux, or they think that "Linux is a company", and know virtually nothing about it except that it's considered a threat to Microsoft because some article they read said so.

    I don't dispute that AOLinux would probably edge out other Linices in the consumer consciousness, but Linux's current presense in the consumer consciousness is next to nothing, so would AOLinux really do any harm? Even if Microsoft Windows trounced AOLinux, and Linux in general subsequently receded from Average Joe's mind, Linux would be in no worse a position on the desktop than it is today. Besides, while AOLinux's would be unlikely to defeat Windows, it would probably make more progress than today's laughably techy "consumer-oriented distributions".

  • Negative Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by donglekey (124433) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:28AM (#2866542) Homepage
    I can't believe all the negative feedback from this. What is so bad about AOL? They aren't for you and me, it is annoying having to delete them off a new computer for someone, and they sugar coat everything, but who cares? If there is one thing that could dramatically change the history of computing and put power back into YOUR hands, this is it. Quit compaining about the best thing that could realistically happen to computing right now.
  • Be? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jso888 (114340) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:30AM (#2866553) Homepage
    Kind of makes you wonder if AOL considered purchasing Be instead. It certainly would have been a cheaper buy.

    It also would give them a more user friendly operating system with a familiar, functioning, and coherent/unified WIMP interface (yes, Linux with KDE or Gnome is IMHO still not ready for the average user's desktop).

    And finally, it would give them an OS that is certainly cutting edge multimedia-wise.

    Julian
  • About time... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xonker (29382) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:30AM (#2866555) Homepage Journal
    It's about time (sorry, pardon the pun...) that AOL figured out they need to back the competetion to Windows.

    They half-assed it with a net device based on Linux with Gateway, but never pushed it.

    Let's face it, AOL's customers are the kind of people who need a net appliance, not a Windows PC. They buy the Linux company with the most name recognition, and a solid embedded strategy and database play, and start whipping out AOLinux appliances that have Star Office, MP3 player, instant messenging, and a host of other goodies -- but they don't have to kiss Bill's ass anymore to get on the desktop.

    Sure, they don't have to buy Red Hat to get Linux, but they can get a lot of expertise that way -- and I'm sure Red Hat is more than happy to talk to possible buyers.

    I wish Earthlink and the other big ISPs would wake up and realize that M$ is NOT their friend.

    AOL knows that the code isn't what they need to make money on -- it's a consistent monthly service -- and they can get the average person to pay $24.95 (or whatever) a month for an appliance that is self-updating (just like their client is now. Annoying, but it was one of the first examples of self-updating software...) and they have the infrastructure to make it work.

    As much as the AOL-Time-Warner behemoth worries me as a media outlet (way too many media outlets under one roof) it could be the best hope for knocking Microsoft down a peg or two.

    An AOLinux won't supplant Windows, but it'd sure as hell beef up the percentage to make it more even.
  • by Kaellenn (540133) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:31AM (#2866557) Homepage
    I'm not entirely sure my opinion on this matter.

    On the one hand, this could provide a huge step in mass-deployment of the Linux operating system among home computers. AOL is the largest ISP in the world, and their support and distribution of Linux would undoubtedly give credibility and power in the desktop market to Linux machines. I think many slashdot readers can agree that this is a good thing.

    However, if this happens, are we not trading one monopoly for another? Microsoft is trying to corner the entire market with their .NET initiative. If they are successful, they will control nearly 100% of business online. It is definitely a scary concept. But are we to trust AOL/Time Warner on this issue any further simply because they deploy their system using Linux?

    Either way, both companies are currently in very precarious positions. Growing their market share has become nearly impossible, so they have to set their sites on total control of the online market. It seems that both companies have grown to plateaus that leaves each of them with only two choices: down based on distrust of their software; or, they make the leap from their current plateau into the heavens, where they reign as the God of the "new world order" of online home PC's.
  • Be Afraid... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by davmoo (63521) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:32AM (#2866565)
    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.

    Yeah, and look what AOL did with Netscape. Too little, too late. To paraphrase a Robin Williams line, if its being done right anywhere in the online world, its NOT being done by AOL. Any Linux supporter with even a tenth of a brain does not see this article as good news.
  • OSX? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by minus_273 (174041) <{moc.oohay.MAPS} {ta} {aaaaa}> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:36AM (#2866586) Journal
    After seeing the successof OSX, maybe AOL wants to take linux the way that apple took BSD, although the situations may be different between apple and AOL but the underlying idea would be the same, they have a huge (loyal?) userbase that they can control, and present something that is secure, easy to use but also very powerful... buying red hat may be just buying the developers and brand name... the most important thing. The impications of this are huge. If it provided OSC like features, i would fork over $100 anyday!
  • by nate.sammons (22484) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:37AM (#2866595) Homepage
    Think of this: AOL is tons of money. They have tens of millions of people sending them $19.95 a month, and that adds up really quickly.

    They could easily afford to dump all kinds of money into making Linux a great desktop OS. What about some kind of "AOL station" for home users that's a cheap PC with AOL/RedHat installed? Could be good for spreading Linux to the masses.



    -nate

  • by Woko (112284) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:43AM (#2866624)
    RedHat is doing a great job concentrating on the corporate market, releasing stable, tested, supported distributions and getting third party vendors to support Linux.

    It would be a great loss to have those resources "focus shift" to an unknown market with little to recommend it apart from being bankrolled by AOL/TW until they get bored of this whole linux thing.

    Mandrake makes much better sense, as both companies are have the same aims, but with different technologies.
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by madenosine (199677) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:47AM (#2866652)
    And that's the interesting thing; AOL owns so much that it simply cannnot keep them all under control. For example, Nullsoft's creating of the "AIMazing" plugin, in which one of AIM's ads is replaced with an equalizer for Winamp, would never come out of AOL directly. That's why I think that this is a great thing for Red Hat (if true, of course.)
  • by CtrlPhreak (226872) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:58AM (#2866696) Homepage
    From what I've read, AOL isn't letting them be their own companies, they are just so disorganized that they don't do anything with them. This is also the same story before AOL bought Time/Warner. There were internal conficts that ended up making the two companies figt each other from the inside out. They're so rich, they just buy out a company to have a leverage point, and never really care what the company was in the first place. So it ends up the other company just survives on it's own, just the head guy is employed also by AOL/Time/Warner.
  • Re:Tech Support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mini me (132455) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:08AM (#2866742)
    Maybe that's why AOL wants to useLinux, for tech support reasons.

    Customer: I'm having trouble doing X...

    Tech: Just a minute:
    ssh client.aol.com
    ~# `fix problem X`
    ~# exit

    Tech: That should do it. Thank you for using AOL.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:10AM (#2866751)
    AOL would bring a lot of new users to Linux and that's the most important thing.

    Linux was hurt with the .com crash. The mood became less optomistic and ambitious. Sure, Linux adoption is still growing but it's not growing as it could be. Linux needs to be shaken up again.

    AOL would make Linux easier.

    AOL would make Linux less '1337' and that's a good thing.

    AOL is more serious about making money than other people are. They are willing to be humble and give people what they want.

    Current Linux users are less likely to be humble and do the nasty work that isn't 'l337.' For example, Linux users claim to have the best programming tools available and that their software can be used by major financial institutions and on the main frame. But at the same time, Linux doesn't have a Cobol compiler.

    AOL and Linux would also be good for the computer industry as a whole.
  • by Cerlyn (202990) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:12AM (#2866755)

    Let's be realistic here. Linux zealots constantly state that no one can implement copy protection on Linux because anyone can work around it. Since programs can not easily distinguish sockets to other programs from sockets to sound cards or video cards (although I suspect to some extent one can) anything is theoretically copyable, right?

    The biggest recognized Linux brand name known to the public-at-large is Red Hat. If AOL was able to convince Red Hat to incorporate a binary-only security system into their distribution, then Linux-loving people could not easily cry that their favorite operating system could not support digital rights management.

    One of the easiest ways to "convince" someone to do something is to be their boss. Note that Winamp (another AOL acquisition) already supports multiple secure formats, and bypasses insecure output/effects plugins as appropriate.

    No, I am not trolling. This message was written using a Linux box. Trademarks used in this message belong to their holders; yada yada yada, etc.

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:14AM (#2866761) Homepage Journal
    > No more playing DivX movies on RedHat! ;-)

    Or, you see binary-only packages for user-land DVD support.

    Once you have a Time-Warner-AOL sized consumer presence, the barrier for DVD licensees like CyberLink [gocyberlink.com] to port Linux/X versions.

    Of course, these would be for RedHat/AOL versions - so Debian/Slack/etc users would have to compile equivalent kernel facilities and alien [kitenet.net]-ate the binary package.

    I suppose AOL/TW might be able to add some kind of key-signed binary facility, to ensure that only their distro could support some packages. I do not doubt the ingenuity of next-years CS students in defeating any such measure!

  • by simetra (155655) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:18AM (#2866778) Homepage Journal
    Try this for yourself:

    Fire up Netscape. I've done this with 6.2.

    Go to support.microsoft.com. Pick a product, type in something meaningful, search. No results.

    Close Netscape, open IE, do exactly the same thing. Results. (I just tried again, using Access 97 as the product, "filter query" as the search string).

    I have done nothing to the settings of Netscape that would cause this. This happens on my Win2K machine at work, and my Win98 machine at home. I haven't tried it in Linux, because when I'm using Linux I have little need for any MS info...

    MS. What a bunch of wankers!
  • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:21AM (#2866789) Homepage

    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.

    Well, everyone else appears to share your sentiment, but I want to step away from the crowd for a minute and ask: why Red Hat? Red Hat is trying to reach corporate America, not Joe Consumer. That's Mandrake. Mandrake could use help from a bigger company -- maybe some support and funding would stabilize their distro, and their end-user tools really compliment AOL's markets. But Red Hat -- they'll need to focus on a consumer desktop, which just isn't their market, and they'll probably be pushed in directions that won't serve their enterprise customers. And all the while, Mandrake will be standing to the side shouting, "we don't have to shift focus, we're already focused on Joe Consumer!"

    I just think that there are more appropriate companies to buy. Oh well, as long as they leave my SuSE distribution alone, I guess I'm okay.

  • by luge (4808) <slashdot@tiegu[ ]rg ['y.o' in gap]> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:25AM (#2866809) Homepage
    Umm... the Moz Public License allowed them to take it closed whenever they wanted after they bought it. And as much as I love Moz it was completely unusable when AOL bought Netscape. If AOL had cut off funding then, sure, the community would have source, but the community would have nobody who understood the source and no one with time to work on it. AOL has paid for hundreds of people to work on Moz for three years now. So... you'd have no Moz without AOL. Period.
  • Good or bad? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by niola (74324) <jon@niola.net> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:26AM (#2866812) Homepage
    Damn it, I just finally got myself comfortable with RH 7.2 too :)

    Well, seriously, when they first bought Netscape it scared the shit out of many people. I remember the shit I heard back then, "It is the end of the web." Blah, blah, blah.

    But do we not now have Mozilla? I have to say, they kept up their end of the bargain and left it all open source and now we have possibly the best browser yet. With 0.9.8 approaching it seems weird to look back at the very early betas. It has come so far so fast.

    Perhaps AOL Time Warner will provide the Linux community the resources it could use to further grow and mature. It would be like Mozilla and Netscape 6 where one is good for those of us who like solid software without all the other shit and Netscape 6 with all the consumer BS. I could see a more user-friendly dumbed down Linux distro for consumers, while the existing RedHat distro would be wide open for the rest of us.

    Then again, god only knows. There's always Debian :)

    --Jon
  • by Jay L (74152) <{mf.yaj} {ta} {hsals+yaj}> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:37AM (#2866858) Homepage
    Very untrue. CompuServe was floundering when AOL bought them, and so instead of letting them go off on their own, their service was merged into the AOL infrastructure (via CS2000) and their developers have been pooled on many projects.

    With Netscape, there's tight integration in some cases, where it makes sense (e-mail for NetCenter), and not others. And again, the development resources are often shared between groups when needed.

    Sometimes the integration can be premature, at best. There were many articles in the press about trouble when AOL brought TW employees onto the AOL e-mail infrastructure, which just wasn't ready to support the type of groupware features TW was used to. I argued against forcing it down their throats, but the merger team had already decided what a Good Thing it was, and there was no fighting it. Long term, though, it'll be a big boon to the AOL back end, forcing some feature development. And I believe there are other such ways they've leveraged support staffs (staves?) and other infrastructure since I left.

    In general, I think AOL's been fairly smart about when to integrate and when not to integrate.

    Jay the ex-mail guy
  • by Weezul (52464) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:12AM (#2866987)
    AOl may not have any idea what they want to do with all those companies, but they know they do not want Microsoft to get em'. AOL & MS are both bad news.

    Seriously, all those companies have significant leveraging potential (execpt maybe RedHat) but AOL is not in a position to use it. AOL can try to take MS if it aquires RedHat and merges with Apple, but my money would be on MS. The truth is that AOL has two types of executives, experenced TimeWarner folks and AOL nimrods. As much as I'd love to see Mac and Linux eat into MS's market share, TW's TV program directors are not going to be able to do it.

    OTOH, AOL can keep RedHat on a leash (limit the desktop) to buy favors from MS. It violates anti-trust law, but they would get away with it.
  • by supabeast! (84658) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:12AM (#2866989)
    AOL buying Red Hat would be so cool. IBM has already given Linux some serious credibility in the Business world; if AOL buys Linux, suddenly Linux gains credibility among millions of home users.

    Everyone in the industry has already caught on that AOL no longer cares about pissing off Microsoft. XP doesn't come with AOL, Microsoft runs advertisements that insult AOL. MSN messenger (Attempts to.) compete with AIM, one of AOLs coolest marketing gimmicks. If .net and Hailstorm manage to take off, AOL's plan to stop using IE as the AOL browser could be seriously cramped. AOL is very afraid of Microsoft, and Microsoft knows it; at the same time, AOL is in a wonderful position to strike back: AOL has a brand that is almost as well recognized as Microsoft, yet unsullied by numerous mass media reports of security flaws and sleazy corporate dealings.

    Promoting and distributing the OS would also be no big problem for AOL; it would just be another CD to add into the millions of free CD packs they mail out every month now. Adding a linux downloads area similar to freshmeat but for newbies would be a great promotion for their broadband efforts. A nice deal with a good OEM to sell AOL/Red Hat based PCs at a discounted rate could take this to a whole new level. If the antitrust suit ends with Microsoft having to stop OEMs from selling dual-boot systems, even better for AOL/Red Hat. A deal for AOL/Red Hat support of a few major video games (Easily done with advance planning and help from the great folks at Loki.) could push things, perhaps with Doom ]|[ or UT II hitting linux.

    Personally I think that this story could be quite true. I have a few friends working 60+ hour weeks on some secret Red Hat related research and testing at AOL, 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.

    I am so hoping that this is not just a rumor. Should this come to pass, Microsoft will suddenly learn the true might of the Penguin, and little Billy Gates will have to hide behind Fester Ballmer as Microsoft faces the full fury of the free software hordes, spurred on by Steve Case.
  • by CondeZer0 (158969) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:20AM (#2867031) Homepage
    Who is spreading FUD here??

    As someone else have already pointed, may be you should try to validate your CSS.

    And "Fully Compliant XHTML 1.0 Transitional", means nothing,
    you aren't supposed to make new pages using Transitional,
    try to make it compliant with XHTML 1.0 Strict...

    Anybody that knows a bit about CSS and HTML will tell you how much better
    support for them Mozilla have.

    Does IE already support CSS1?
    I remember when some one from MS said that they would never support
    100% CSS1, because "no body really want it", that one was funny..
    And how much of CSS2 do they support?

    :after, :before pseudo classes and "content" attribute?
    No

    All the table formating options?
    No

    etc..

    I have a big respect for you, I have read some very interesting comments written by you,
    but I think you should check your facts better before spreading this kind of FUD, you may
    prefer IE, but it's an accepted fact that the standards support in Mozilla is very superior
    to IE. (and I don't mean that Mozilla is perfect, I should know, I helped to run hundreds
    of CSS test in Mozilla a while a go)

    Best regards

    \\Uriel

    P.S.: Please, let me know when IE is ported to
    FreeBSD so I can look at your page, or may be you will fix it first?
  • by unclelib (552196) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:41AM (#2867137)
    AOL has no interest in going head to head with MS in the desktop OS market. Microsoft already has this locked up, and believe it or not, Windows works reliably enough for ALL of their non-techie users.

    There is no point in trying to make converts out of the millions of aol users. I don't care how friendly linux is, my grandma isnt doing that type of system maintainance on the computer she got from QVC. (heck it might even void the warranty)

    What we could see however, is a set-top box or internet appliance type of device rolled out by AOL which would have limited features and software intended only for use with AOL's internet services, running on a Linux operating system. A pre-packaged system of this type *would* be attractive to non-techies, especially if it were cheap enough.

    People might go for something like this, done right of course. A system like this would cut out any OS licensing costs involved with a Windows-based solution.

    If they could come up an appliance that did everything you could do on AOL with a PC easily, no one would care what OS was underneath.

    Who knows, they might even give these things away if you sign up for the AOL service for a couple of years.
  • by KodaK (5477) <sakodak@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:49AM (#2867173) Homepage
    They are a $$$ centric buisness.

    What else should they focus on? Skeeball tickets?

    ...see them for what they are.... a money grubbing buisness...

    Again, here you go with the anti-capitalisim. What, exactly, is wrong with making money?

    No offence, and I know you mean well, but you really need to lighten up on the money making thing. Money makes the world go around, and no matter what you want to believe, it's not evil. It's what you do with it that counts.

    AOL is not my favorite corporation, but they're doing well, that means they're doing things right for the majority of people who use their service. Yes, you and I know their service sucks, but THEY ARE MAKING MONEY! There's nothing more grand, more worthwile, and more deserving of our respect than profit. Nothing.

    Look at it this way: money gives you the ability to affect change in the way you desire. Therefore, if you gain a lot of money you can do what you wish. If in the process you are corrupted by the money then you weren't a person of the convictions you started out with. This isn't a bad thing (unless you fund things to further the "bad things" you are convinced of.) It's merely a barometer of what you really are, and most of us are selfish "bastards".

    I'm too drunk now to spout out some sort of disertation , but remember this: you're only as corrupt as you allow yourself to be.
  • The gist of this may have been posted already, so forgive me if I'm being redundant, but looking through the posts, I haven't found anything that is really close to what I think, so here goes.

    This is probably one of the best things that could have happened to linux, as long as AOL handles this correctly. As some have already mentioned, all the average user really wants out of his or her computer is word possessing and, for lack of a better term, a way to waste time (via surfing the web, e-mail, chatting, AIM, mp3s, whatever). Obviously, some users may want more, but the point is that everything the average user wants can already be found for Linux, and typically for free. However, there's a caveat, most users also lack the knowledge and/or the courage to make anything but the most trivial changes to their computer. If you ask them to install a new OS on their machine, you might as well ask them to perform brain surgery while their at it. If AOL is going to succeed with a Linux distro bundled with their Internet software, the whole process is going to have to be incredibly simple. If the user has to do anything more complicated than put a disk in their cdrom drive and press the reset button, you might as well forget it.

    After installing the OS, everything had better work. This is a good thing for the Linux community in general, because currently, everything does not work, there's still a great deal of hardware out there that's not supported. AOL has the resources and the clout to either make these things work, or pressure the hardware manufacturers into making them work.

    If something doesn't work, however, AOL techs have a wonderful tool in ssh to fix things. Now that the techs don't have to rely completely on a customer describing the problem (the Internet is broken!), can you imagine how much time their going to save? AOL wins because they don't need as many techs, and the customers win because their problems will tend to be solved much more quickly and easily. I suspect that this alone would drive up subscriptions, especially if AOL is supporting the entire OS, not just the Internet connectivity.

    Finally, if this leads to more people start using Linux at home for the ease of support (not to mention the added bonus of free software and greater stability), how long do you think it will be before Linux finds greater acceptance in the workplace? CEOs and the like are users too, and if they start seeing how well Linux works at home, they might start pushing their IT departments to migrate to Linux as well, especially if they're getting hammered with licensing audits for Microsoft software.
  • by Compact Dick (518888) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @07:36AM (#2867728) Homepage
    This could turn out to be a good thing for Linux. Why? AOL can infuse their vast resources of capital into the one thing Linux sorely lacks, namely a decent set of true-type fonts.

    X11R6's default font set is so atrocious it's no surprise it repels PC users weaned on Windows' splendid set of TT fonts. Fund the development of a LGPL'd set of core fonts [similar to Microsoft's Core Web Fonts [microsoft.com]] and you have cleared one of the biggest obstacles in the way of Linux's widespread adoption.

    I'm sure the zealots wouldn't mind this too much either :-)
  • Two important points (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jgarzik (11218) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @08:59AM (#2867852) Homepage
    Two points that nobody AFAICS really commented out. (though "The end of the OS monopoly" subthread got close)

    1) Since Linux distros are largely made up of GPL'd software, that means AOL is tapping into a large base of software that Microsoft can never touch nor copy. Microsoft has even made it a point to tell its employees and partners to never look at GPL'd code.

    2) What happens if AOL "wins" the OS war, using Linux? Now we are replacing one monopoly with another.


    Jeff
  • very possible (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stego (146071) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @09:13AM (#2867872) Homepage
    == And a newbie friendly AOLinux.

    AOL has a history of making computer stuff easy to do. What if they pulled a slick, easy to use Linux out of this? Look at the interface Apple put on Unix, and they have to keep happy a much more broad user group than AOL...
  • by gtx (204552) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @10:56AM (#2868110) Homepage
    i am of the belief that mozilla (what the unwashed masses would refer to as netscape6 and up) has an incredibly hackable UI. if AOL were to buy red hat, and they already own netscape, wouldn't that possibly lead to an "AOL OS" distro which bundles RH, X, and a copy of an AOLified mozilla? (much in the same sense that AOL the AOL software today is just an AOLified MSIE)

    they could set up a tweaked version of X and a tweaked version of mozilla (using mozilla as the UI [slashdot.org]) to do *nothing but* run their aol client. it'd be the world's most overpowered dumb terminal.

    personally i'm all for it in the fact that AOL probably has the financial resources to persuade people to write better winmodem drivers.

    -c
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @02:42PM (#2868913)

    AOL will cripple RedHat's contributions to Linux, which have been enormous.

    Here is my speculation regarding AOL's reasoning and past behavior:

    AOL has a high customer turnover rate, with basically *one* source of new signups. Its user base consists now (and probably in the future) mostly of people who signed up by clicking the "AOL" icon on their new microsoft-infested computer. Microsoft controls the existence of that icon. If it were to disappear, so would AOL.

    When Netscape was in the way of Big M's business interests, AOL was induced to buy the company. The purpose was unclear then, but now it seems very likely (to me) that AOL's plans for Netscape (the company and the browser) were to simply let it languish until its coders quit, and in the case of the browser, a bizarre decision was made to write a new one from scratch, rather than continue to improve the current product. They called it a rewrite, but it was no such thing. The results of the "rewrite" are not yet clear. Why did AOL bother to buy Netscape in the first place? It was told to. To have the all-important icon not disappear.

    A very similar thing happend to ICQ, which was at the top of its class, but interfered with the ability of a rival microsoft product to become dominant. ICQ had to be crippled, so the AOL icon could remain.

    What will happen if AOL buys RedHat? AOL or its undercover spokesmen will repeatedly suggest that AOL has big plans for Linux, and will dedicate a lot of (formerly redhat) coders to carrying those plans out, which may take a couple of years or so to accomplish. It will be a smokescreen for the real goal: delaying the advancement of Linux, demoralization inside RH, and redirection of talent to projects that are pre-scheduled to be scrapped.

    One of the major vulnerabilities of Linux today is the susceptibility of coders to be removed from the open-source work force by monopolist-influenced companies. If you're a Free-Software coder, don't give in to it. If you wake up some morning and find you now work for AOL(MS)RedHat, you'll have a big decision to make.

    Could I be wrong? Could AOL have legitimate plans for RH? It can easily pay people to create an AOL browser version to run on Linux, and distribute its own AOL-Linux product with *only* AOL's icon on the startup screen. Why on earth would it want to buy a whole company instead?

    For the icon.

  • by uninet (413687) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @03:20PM (#2869083) Homepage
    This would be great! Can you imagine if every
    major computer magazine didn't come with AOL, but AOL Linux? Can you imagine
    if AOL quit paying OEM's to include just AOL, but AOL on Linux? Also, if AOL
    through it's support behind Linux, just think all of the companies that
    will/would follow - Macromedia probably would port Shockwave, Real
    would port *all* of RealOne, and so on.

    I've often said that I thought AOL was the one company that seemed to be able
    to out wit Microsoft (and it has a lot of cash too). Except for bringing AOL
    users to Linux, I can't see what could be bad about this, and if even 25% of
    AOL's users could eventually be convinced to move to Linux, it could have a
    profound effect on our OS.

    I might also note that AOL has already done a pretty good job with our
    community - they are relicensing Mozilla under the NPL/GPL/LGPL
    triple-license, they are porting WinAmp to Linux, they've ported AIM, etc. I
    might add that AOL generally writes *native* Linux apps (i.e. GTK based
    WinAmp and AIM) rather than some kind of sloppy port...

    Also, just think if only the computers at AOL Time Warner switched to Linux - just think how many systems would switch!

    Finally, if they treat RedHat like Nullsoft and to a lesser extent Netscape,
    RH would probably be allowed to continue to function much the same way it
    does now... Just with a media giant behind it.

    -Tim
  • by Angwe (18648) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @04:30PM (#2869383)
    Let's take a look.

    M$ runs a software house that produces the most widely lused operating systems and groupware in the US.

    AOL/TW runs a media conglomerate that owns almost every media outlet Americans can see.

    Now, think real hard about who can do more damage to your freedom.

    Answer: AOL/TW...duh.

    Solution: None. The only thing that scares me more than AOL/TW getting into the OS market is the possibility of Disney entering. (To rip-off an idea from Neal Stephanson, wholesale, if Disney ever entered the OS market, they'd kick M$'s ASS!)

    Just my comment. Take it or lump it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @05:20PM (#2869605)
    I won't confirm or deny this story (I don't know if any of this is true, and if I did, I probably wouldn't be allowed to tell), just one thing:

    Most Red Hat engineers care about Open Source. If this were true and resulted in taking Red Hat Linux proprietary, you can expect to see a large number of Red Hat engineers leaving the company and forming a new one, starting development from the last free Rawhide.

    If the rumors were indeed true, I'd not look for a new job right away (just because they're AOL doesn't mean they'll automatically do everything wrong, that's not even true of Microsoft), but I'd leave as soon as the resulting company would start messing up, and I'm sure many others would agree with me.

    So don't worry, there will always be a free Red Hat Linux out there, even if it gets a different name.

    Posting anonymously because I'm not exactly sure if an employee may reply to this sort of thing at all, better safe than sorry.

    Anonymous "Feel Free to Take a Good Guess" Coward.
  • by Jay L (74152) <{mf.yaj} {ta} {hsals+yaj}> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @05:41PM (#2869680) Homepage
    You are making the assumption that given sufficient marketshare, AOL/TW wouldn't act exactly like Microsoft and try to gain as much control over their users, and that revenue stream, as MS ever did.

    The difference between Microsoft and AOL's management style is the difference between Bill Gates and Steve Case.

    Gates wants to increase Microsoft's power and control in order to increase revenues and market share. Steve just wants to increase AOL's revenues and market share; power is a byproduct, not the prime goal.

    For the most part, when AOL makes an "evil" move, it is being more boneheaded than arrogant. Whenever I would argue against a bad (IMHO) decision, I would almost always find that the proponent honestly believed their idea would provide better, more interesting services to the customers, thus increasing usage and market share.

    The difference is important: bad trade-offs can be argued against. If someone thinks an X% increase in functionality is worth a Y% decrease in "legitimacy", it's a lot easier to convince them that they're wrong (and people were always willing to be convinced). If someone thinks that an X% increase in power is worth a Y% decrease in anything at all, well.. you're screwed.

    With one obvious and well-discussed exception, I don't recall any major decisions that intentionally limited functionality or spread FUD to create a monopoly. And AOL certainly never pressured suppliers or squeezed customers the way Microsoft does - I can't recall anything on the order of Licensing 6.0.

    A favorite story: When AOL first launched, a 10% lifetime discount was given to "charter members". Later, we dropped our prices drastically (the $20/20 hours plan, I think it was), and the billing folks felt that this was already far more than a 10% discount, and so it met the letter of the charter-member promise. I disagreed, and I brought the issue up to Steve. He didn't even hesitate; he just said "We promised these people a lifetime discount." Boom. Charter members got 10% off the new, lower rates. (And I got a reputation for end runs, but such is life.)

    Obviously, as the company grew, and Steve became less personally involved, this generalism became less true. Some percentage of people - especially in the media world - are going to be power-hungry bastards. But if AOL buys and subsequently destroys Red Hat, I suspect it'll be due to executive incompetence or bad timing, not Their Evil Ways.
  • by pressman (182919) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @05:48PM (#2869715) Homepage
    The Disney comment is hilarious because of the rumors abounding for years that Disney might buy Apple (all totally bogus of course). So we'd have M$ putting out their usual garbage, AOL/TW putting out a version of Linux and Disney distributing Darwin/FreeBSD.

    So an actual software company distibuting bloated, buggy, insecure crap and you'd have 2 media outlets distributing secure, stable and powerful software. It's just freaking hilarious.
  • Re:GPL to the rescue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @06:13PM (#2869823)
    Yes, if Linux et. al. were under the BSD license, AOL could release a proprietary kernel with all the things you state, but probably nobody would use it. The reason people use software under the BSD license is because it works for them, in some manner. In this case, I don't see why anyone would ditch their distro to get the "enhanced with 33% more spying and 64.3% more ads!!" AOL-hosed RedHat one.


    Also the non-enhanced source would still exist somewhere on some server holding it. AOL would not be capable of destroying the source code nor eliminating its general availability, only using it in their work. It still exists. Microsoft has BSD command line ftp in various versions of their software. But it still exists in the BSD distro, it didn't "go away".

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


    BSD gives freedom to developers, GPL limits some freedoms on developers with a side effect of giving more freedom to consumers/users of software. They're both tools; use whatever tool makes the most sense to you. If you care more about what rights users have to seeing the underlying code, by all means, go GPL. If you want your code given the most possible uses, go BSD.

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