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Red Hat CEO Questions Relevance of Desktop Linux 615

Posted by Soulskill
from the year-of-something-on-the-something dept.
snydeq writes "Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst questioned the relevance of Linux on the desktop, citing several financial and interoperability hurdles to business adoption at a panel on end-users and Linux last night at the OSBC. 'First of all, I don't know how to make money on it,' Whitehurst said, adding that he was uncertain how relevant the desktop itself will be in five years given advances in cloud-based and smartphone computing, as well as VDI. 'The concept of a desktop is kind of ridiculous in this day and age. I'd rather think about skating to where the puck is going to be than where it is now.' Despite increasing awareness that desktop Linux is ready for widespread mainstream adoption, fellow panelists questioned the practicality of switching to Linux, noting that even some Linux developers prefer Macs to Linux. 'There's a desire [to use desktop Linux],' one panelist said, 'but practicality sets in. There are significant barriers to switching.'"
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Red Hat CEO Questions Relevance of Desktop Linux

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:35PM (#27331141)

    Put it on the shelf, and sell it for $50. Use the $50 to pay for 1) 24-hour tech support phone line and 2) Licensing for MPEG, MP3, etc so that DVD and music playback Just Works, out of the box. I'll buy half a dozen copies and GIVE them to all my relatives. Please, somebody do this already.

  • Flip flop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:36PM (#27331157) Journal

    Didn't I just read something about Redhat moving back into the desktop?

    http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/24/1721248 [slashdot.org]

  • Really? Again? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:36PM (#27331163)
    Simply because some CEO can't sell his product in a market flooded with free (and equally good) alternatives (like ubuntu, debian, puppy linux, soon android, and other), the desktop distro is going to disappear? Really?

    Or is he talking about the desktop computer? Well, I'll put his name on the pile of people proclaiming the doom of the desktop. While laptops are almost everywhere, they haven't replaced the desktop in the workplace. In fact, at the firm i used to work for, they bought everyone laptops for a round of buys, but then switched back to towers.

    Also, I shudder to imagine how slow and botched a thin client rollout would have been. It seemed like every day one server or another was going down for something. I know that's not how you run your shop, but I can't imagine my old 150 person firm was unique.
  • Re:Oh Yeah?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DesertBlade (741219) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:39PM (#27331205)
    Running Ubuntu on my HP/Compaq 8710 laptop with no issues.
  • by magisterx (865326) <TimothyAWisemanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:39PM (#27331209)
    Cloud computing and the client-server architecture in general is definitely decreasing the significance of the desktop and will continue to do so, but there will likely remain some niches where it makes sense to have significant desktop performance.

    One example that comes to mind is doing development work, including both traditional programming and CAD work as well as graphics design. To be responsive to the user it seems those would want to keep most of the processing near the end user. Similarly, anything dealing with sensitive information must tread lightly when dealing with the cloud or any other server which is not under direct and immediate control.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:39PM (#27331225)

    I've been using a Linux desktop for years. Now that OpenOffice is a reality, and Firefox is the best browser, what's not to like? Sure, Macs are OK, but their keyboard layout makes X windows development very difficult. And the comment, "What about laptops?" is right on the mark: Am I supposed to carry a Linux laptop, and then a Macbook, just so that I can use the Mac desktop? That's absurd. The RedHat CEO is just plain wrong.

  • RedHate (Score:1, Interesting)

    by metamatic (202216) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:43PM (#27331297) Homepage Journal

    'First of all, I don't know how to make money on it'

    That's easy. Make it not suck, then sell copies.

    Of course, if you're RedHat, that would require getting rid of RPM and yum, and moving to a packaging system that doesn't suck like APT and dpkg, so it's not going to happen.

    Fortunately, we have Ubuntu.

  • by beerbellyswan (741954) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:47PM (#27331381)
    More importantly is privacy. I would much rather have my personal data stored locally on my own machine than some Google data center. The desktop will always have a place for those concerned with their private things - even if a significant portion of their personal data is sent through the networks via online banking, taxes, etc...
  • Re:perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:48PM (#27331397) Homepage

    Well it isn't really all that clear to me that anyone has to make money off of desktop Linux distributions. At least at the moment, Linux distros seem to be making pretty good progress as it is.

    But also I think the summary may be misleading. From the article, it seems like he's pointing out the problems with switching to Linux on the desktop right now, and then going on to say that he isn't very interested in trying to push Linux on the desktop because he's questioning the relevance of desktop computing *at all*.

    But then the summary makes it sound like he's just ceding the desktop OS business to Apple/Microsoft, which would be somewhat different.

  • Re:perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguin Follower (576525) <TuxTheBurninator@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:52PM (#27331457) Journal
    Let me know when a mobile phone can serve as a CAD workstation, video editing workstation, or other high performance need. We have plenty of those around here where I work. Also need to mention dual wide screen monitors in imaging departments like radiology (they rotate them vertically for x-rays, etc.) It's more likely that thin clients will become the norm again before mobile devices replace desktops. We have a lot of Citrix thin clients here and that number is growing steadily...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:00PM (#27331587)

    I decided to take the plunge and finally learn C with the ultimate goal of moving on to Objective C to build apps for my MacBook. Mac users seem to actually pay for this little app or that little app... that's not as much the case for Windows, and absolutely not the case for *nix.

    It may not be a better dev environment, but people will actually pay a couple bucks for what I write if it works well. That alone's enough incentive for me.

  • Re:perspective (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:00PM (#27331595)

    Seemingly left out from the discussion:

    If it weren't for all the Unix derivitives, like Linux and OS/x, cloud computing would REQUIRE a Microsoft OS.

  • Re:perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:03PM (#27331647) Homepage Journal

    This makes me think that... if I don't know how to make money from orange juice, should I tell people that drinking it is stupid?

    Well, no - but maybe it means you tell people you don't think it's worth being in the orange juice business...

    As for preferring Macs over Linux - I've been down that road and I came back. In the end OS X just didn't make me happy. Replacing my Mac laptop with a Linux one has been delightful. It just feels right.

  • by melted (227442) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:04PM (#27331665) Homepage

    I use Linux on my laptop, but even I have to agree.

    What I want is a $50 add-on that will:

    1. Fully and legally support bytecode interpreter and hinting for fonts. Bonus points for including decent fonts as well.
    2. Support all major audio and video codecs. I shouldn't have to break any laws to get support for my digital media. Bonus points for not having to buy another codec pack when I upgrade my OS.
    3. Support multi-monitor automatically when I connect a monitor (like Mac or Windows).
    4. Work well on laptops. I should not see error messages about my hard drive failing to soft-reset every time I wake my laptop up from sleep.

  • by CarpetShark (865376) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:06PM (#27331697)

    Thanks. Saved me having to say it.

    I'll add the next step in the logic though: obviously if Canonical do the desktop better, they also get the server market, or at least, debian-like distros (quite probably Debian itself) will. Good riddance to the RPM format, I say. Redhat should have swallowed their pride and adopted the superior format years ago, and we'd all have been a lot further forward now.

  • Re:perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eln (21727) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:12PM (#27331807) Homepage

    People have been predicting the death of the desktop computer almost since it was invented. Thin clients attached to powerful servers (or the newest buzzword "the cloud") have been touted as the future of computing for decades.

    The simple fact is that even if these things worked flawlessly and without latency (they don't), the consumer just doesn't want to give up that kind of control to a central entity. We like to have our own applications on our own box, and we don't trust some big company to keep our stuff safe and private. The desktop hardware may continue to shrink, but it will still be the desktop. The death of the desktop has been 5 years away for the past 30 years, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

  • Re:Oh Yeah?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RMingin (985478) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:16PM (#27331879) Homepage

    Lenovo 3000 N500 - Ubuntu 8.10 - 0 issues
    Lenovo 3000 N500 #2 - Gentoo 2008.1 - some issues (WTF, IT'S GENTOO)
    Dell Inspiron e1505 - Ubuntu 8.10 - 0 issues
    Acer Extensa 4220 - Ubuntu 8.10 - 0 issues
    Acer Extensa 4620 - Ubuntu 8.10 - 0 issues
    HP 6710b - Ubuntu 8.10 - 0 issues
    HP 6730b - Ubuntu 8.10 - 0 issues
    IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet - Ubuntu 8.10 - Some issues, mostly related to the tablet functionality.

    Did you have a point, or were you just assuming that your (or your "friend's") one experience made a trend?

  • Re:RedHate (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:16PM (#27331887)

    Of course, if you're RedHat, that would require getting rid of RPM and yum, and moving to a packaging system that doesn't suck like APT and dpkg, so it's not going to happen.

    Fortunately, we have Ubuntu.

    I think the real problem is Yum, not RPM.
    Yum is horribly slow.

    I remember using Conectiva Linux (a RPM-based distro) which commited the "heresy" of using APT with RPM. It was fast and reliable.
    Today, at work, I maintain an APT repository of Conectiva 10 updates (since Mandriva ceased to maintain that disto). No problems here.

  • Re:I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:17PM (#27331899)

    Linux lost me on the desktop 8 years ago when OSX came out. Most of the "switchers" I knew didn't go from windows to Mac in those days, they went from Linux to Mac. Especially developers. With OSX, we had our unix stack for *AMP development plus something Linux didn't: commercial applications. The fact we could still run MS Office, Photoshop, and other such programs made it easy to switch. Plus the hardware just worked. There were no driver issues, especially with laptops, etc..

    When computers stopped being something I toyed with on the side to my main source of income, my priority shifted because my time became worth something. I no longer had time to try to recompile a driver for my sound card 6 different ways depending on the Linux Flavour of the moment. In fact, I found Linux to be annoying as hell because it's a kernel, not an operating system. All the different distros but libraries and such in different directories based on whatever their reasonings were. So if you were working on a Redhat box one day and tried to test on a debain or slackware box the next, nothing would work.

    That's why I left the Linux world for FreeBSD on the server side and the reason why I dumped both Windows and Linux desktop for MacOSX back in 2001.

    What the Linux community still doesn't understand is that it's all about the apps. Now with Intel Macs, I run XP via parallels. I have one 24" iMac sitting on my desk that does it all. (I'm still using my older 12.1" powerbook as my laptop).

    Last year when we were first starting up this operation, we bought barebones machines and slapped linux on them for developers. After, they were more than enough to run Eclipse for Java development. Well they all got frustrated with this or that and ended up bringing in XP discs and installing on their machines. (Which was a problem for a variety of reasons). So we replaced the barebones boxes with MacMinis that came with parallels and a copy of XP pro already installed. Everyone's been a lot happier.

  • Re:perspective (Score:2, Interesting)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:20PM (#27331943) Journal
    VMS was doing "cloud computing" 20 years ago.
  • by xouumalperxe (815707) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:22PM (#27331973)

    Actually, put the right spin on it, and Canonical/Ubuntu is the best example of Open Source success: guy harnesses F/OSS stuff to get rich, pays the community back by putting his money where his mouth is.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:31PM (#27332125) Journal

    No kidding. Every couple of weeks, there's some sort of submission on Slashdot about some limitation in what Apple will let people install on the iPhone. I can install not just a huge number of software applications on my PC, I can even install different operating systems. There's no one telling me that I can't run Java on my box, or forcing me to only use one messaging client.

    I realize that some folks need to be on the bleeding edge, but giving Apple your money so they can tell you what you can run on your hardware is ludicrous, and I find anyone who gives into it a pathetic retard.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:33PM (#27332153) Homepage

    that Canonical is doing what he's been trying to do for years.

    What would that be, bring Linux to a <1% [hitslink.com] market share? I'd say Canonical is doing pretty much exactly the same as Red Hat. Back in its day RHL was pretty much *the* desktop distro (sorry, debian), building a name for themselves, getting certifications and so on. The only reason RHEL got anywhere is because half the geeks had already played with RHL. When they finally had enough legs to stand on in the business world alone, they dropped RHL and went with RHEL exclusive. Canonical definately wouldn't mind breaking into that known profitable market along with RHEL and SLES, and Ubuntu is the promotion package. If they carve out a market for Ubuntu LTS and drop Ubuntu in favor of a Fedora "testbed", the likeness would be complete. I hope things will be different this time around, but there's been a few too many "Year of the Linux desktop" for me to be very convinced.

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:37PM (#27332209)

    Hm. To get rich?

    According to wikipedia:

    Shuttleworth founded Thawte in 1995, which specialised in digital certificates and Internet security and then sold it to VeriSign in December 1999, earning R 3.5 billion (about US$ 575 million at the time).

    In September 2000, Shuttleworth formed HBD Venture Capital, a business incubator and venture capital provider.

    In March 2004 he formed Canonical Ltd., for the promotion and commercial support of free software projects.

    Sounds like he started his own company and sold it. Like a normal business entrepreneur. Unless I'm mistaken, Thawte isn't F/OSS... and he's definitely not getting rich on Canonical/Ubuntu (yet, at least). And they even sell t-shirts ;)

  • by cenc (1310167) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:37PM (#27332223) Homepage

    First, I am not in the IT industry. I run small law firm.

    My entire buisness, two offices, 30 computers, routers, servers, all Linux (PClos 2009 is my flavor). Not a single copy of anything else in my office, all running free or open source software legally. I save over $250,000 a year and climbing over what I would have needed to pay for the equivalent (and most is not equivalent). Since I started my biz about 4 years ago, that could be seen as something around $1 million dollars. In real money, that is something likly closer to $400,000 in cash, because I likly simply would have had to do without most of the stuff I take for granted (e.g. loading up a backup mail server on an old computer, rather than forking out $2,000+ for new one ). Thus, my buisness likly would be much smaller.

    The savings is even greater on the desktop. Somewhere in neighborhood of $1,000 per seat or more. Hardware alone, as I live in a country with expensive outdated hardware, is 50% over walking in to a store to buy a new computer because I run Linux.

    I would likly not be able to afford to be in biz without Linux.

    Making money comes in two basic forms. You either raise the price, or reduce your cost. I am making more money using linux and OS, because I reduced my cost. I can afford not to raise prices on clients, I get more clients, and make more money.

    Not my problem the old guard IT industry can not figure out how to make money with Linux, because I am sure I am not the only small buisness out there that is making money on Open Source.

  • Re:Oh Yeah?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:47PM (#27332391)

    have they not fixed that yet?

    I suffered from the same on my Vaio. I could here it doing it, spinning down and up again every few seconds. There were workarounds but I recall the Ubuntu guys saying "not our problem" yet at the same time other distros and OSs were fine.

  • Re:Oh Yeah?! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:38PM (#27333227) Journal

    My desktop PC has been exclusively Linux for 6 years now, and I don't even have Wine installed (and never have installed it). I have no Windows systems at all. There is no need to touch Wine for the vast majority of desktop use.

  • Re:Anecdotes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bjourne (1034822) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @04:54PM (#27335043) Homepage Journal

    The reason people gave for sticking with OS X was that it saved them time and effort managing configurations that were not necessary to their tasks. One manager proposed a standardized Linux desktop for his group and the engineers raised hell until the idea was dropped. His proposal was not helped by the fact that he couldn't get more than two Linux fans to agree on a vision as to what that standard should look like. The cost of Apple machines over IBM was negligible and the new employee configuration time as measured by IT was about 20 hours less. They also had a lower hardware failure rate.

    What weird company did this occur on? It makes no sense. First you say that OS X saved people effort in managing configurations, then you say that the IT department configured users computers. I also find it very hard to believe that OS X saved IT 20 hours in configuration time. That's 2 and a half full working day and not even Windows takes that long to configure. So how the hell could OS X SAVE them 20 hours compared to Linux?

    At a previous job all engineers used SLED10, with machines remotely ghost-installed by the IT department. The whole process from start to ready-configured machine took less than an hour.

    I've been running Ubuntu longer than that and Kubuntu before that.

    It can't have been that long, Kubuntu was released in 2005. Kubuntu is a derivate of Ubuntu, not the other way around.

  • Re:Give up control? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @05:01PM (#27335123)

    If what you are doing with it is something that requires Unix well then the usbility would be in question but if you are using it for something it is designed for they it works fine. I mean you wouldn't use a sports car to pull a travel trailer, if so then the usability of the sports car in that instance would be horrible and for performance yes Linux runs very good on hardware that would not even load Windows Vista, but if you want to run virtually any software that is sold today you need Windows and the lack of support for Linux by the mainstream software companies is one reason that Linux will never become a driving force on the desktop.

    You know...this linux isn't ready for the desktop thing puzzles me. I used an Amiga 3000D...seriously modded mind you...until 1999 when I finally gave up on new hardware and looked at linux. I never looked back. I've never used windoze as a desktop. I've used it to play games on occasionally at work. Mostly I use windzoze to enter things in a database at work. We have bunches of these really expensive workstations and at any one time a third of them are awaiting tech support. I just really don't see what people think they'd be missing with windoze. But hey! I'm happy and if they are too that's great.

  • Re:Give up control? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jwhitener (198343) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @06:52PM (#27336251)

    I use ubuntu for my desktop at work. All my servers run either Solaris or Linux.

    That said, I've never had my home gaming XP machine refuse to boot windows or have the sound not work after any upgrade (system or driver).

    This year alone, my ubuntu desktop X has refused to startx 2 times after various updates, and hda-intel alsa sound has not worked for months after an update. I finally had to purge alsa and install oss by hand to make it work.

    I might be in the minority, and this could purely be anecdotal, but linux distro's on the desktop still are not ready imo.

    I suppose if no one updated drivers or their system ever, it would be nice and stable:), but that isn't very realistic.

  • Re:Give up control? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Q-Hack! (37846) * on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @09:23PM (#27337513)

    I suppose if no one updated drivers or their system ever, it would be nice and stable:), but that isn't very realistic.

    I set my mother up on Fedora 5 several years ago. Before that she was using Windows. With Windows set up do auto update, I was guaranteed to have a phone call about once every couple of months because something stopped working. Now that she is on Fedora, I manually do the updates about once a year when I go home to visit. I have not had one phone call asking for help because something stopped working. Obviously, I wouldn't wait that long to update a Windows box, but I feel confident that she won't be hacked with the Fedora box. The reduced workload was well worth it for me.

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