Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Red Hat Software Businesses

AOL in Negotiations to Buy Red Hat? 950

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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

AOL in Negotiations to Buy Red Hat?

Comments Filter:
  • by cide1 ( 126814 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:09AM (#2866430) Homepage
    Isnt this the beauty of the GPL, AOL already has the full source to RedHat.
    • yeah, but they don't have the ability to influence the direction that the company is heading.
    • by gorillasoft ( 463718 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:14AM (#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 ) <> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:14AM (#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 Ptolemarch ( 11506 ) <> 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 ekrout ( 139379 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:19AM (#2866492) Journal
      Except Slashdot. Are you trying to say Slashdot isn't cool? Are you? Huh?! Huh?!!!
    • 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.
      • by Jay L ( 74152 ) <jay+slash&jay,fm> 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 Cardinal ( 311 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @05:14AM (#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).
    • 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 dhogaza ( 64507 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:42PM (#2868686) Homepage
      And their excellent AOLserver [] is open source, too. They bought NaviServer and shortly thereafter offered binary downloads for free, then switched to a fully open source model two-three years ago.

      AOLserver []runs big parts of and Say what you may about the quality of AOL's services, but when was the last time you heard of either of those websites going down? Or getting hacked?

  • 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 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.

    • > 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 [] 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 []-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!

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

    by perdida ( 251676 ) <thethreatproject ... inus threevowels> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:11AM (#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 yerricde ( 125198 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:22AM (#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 Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:57AM (#2866690) Homepage Journal
        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),

        My webpage is Fully Compliant XHTML 1.0 Transitional [] and renders better in IE 6.0 than in Mozilla (as text and images not this "dumping the XML tree that you speak of). Mozilla is a great browser but when I see people spreading lies in an effort to spread its usage I feel disgusted.

        Let the browser stand on its own merits instead of spreading FUD to promote it. This sullies the name of Mozilla and all that work on it.
        • 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?

          All the table formating options?


          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


          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?
    • Re:A carton of feces (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hobuddy ( 253368 )

      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".

  • 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.

  • If and when this comes true, and that is of course a big if and when, I think we can safely say that the MS monopoly will be offically converted to a duopoly.

    I was *just* joking around with a friend about "throwing a boot loader on AOL". Looks like maybe AOL heard me. That'd be exactly all they need.. a Linux distro with an AOL client strapped on. It might even be good for the rest of the distro.

    I love speculation, its soooo... speculative.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:15AM (#2866473)
      .. a Linux distro with an AOL client strapped on

      For some reason, that sounds . . . arousing.


    • by KC Swan ( 254596 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:21AM (#2866500)
      Think about 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.
      • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:31AM (#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).
  • by Saeculorum ( 547931 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:11AM (#2866442)
    You've got Linux!
  • Good and Bad. (Score:4, Flamebait)

    by thesolo ( 131008 ) <> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:12AM (#2866449) Homepage
    This is great and awful news at the same time.

    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.

    Oh well, if they do, I'll just go to another distro, I suppose.
    • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by orkysoft ( 93727 )
      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?
      • 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.
    • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by minusthink ( 218231 )
      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?
      • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by madenosine ( 199677 )
        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.)
    • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Some Dumbass... ( 192298 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:33AM (#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.

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

        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.

    • Oh my God (Score:4, Insightful)

      by twilight30 ( 84644 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:36AM (#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? []

      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.

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

      by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "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...
      • Re:Good and Bad. (Score:3, Informative)

        And speaking of AIM, it's the only instant messaging software I can think of that actually HAS a Linux release.

        Yahoo Messenger has an official Linux client, works great. It's bit light on features compared to the Windows version, but the functionality is there.

        In fact, all it really needs is a feature to flash the icon in the taskbar when a message comes in. Anyone know how to make it do that?

        I've tried some of the other Yahoo! clients people have made. Frankly none of them compares to the "official" client.

    • Wouldn't it be great to get stuff like the latest RPMs on those free AOL CDs?
      What about free security updates for AOL members - goodbye CodeRed-style nuisances... (Something like Apt-get on connect...)

      If they can discourage members from running as root, they'll virtually put an end to a lot of the nonsense that we've had to put up with from email trojans, and VB Script crap.
      Yes, they'd probably not let people run a lot of services on the network - telnet, smtp, etc, but isn't that a Good Thing for end users as a group?

      Plus, wouldn't it be nice to be able to SSH to your mom's/uncle's/friend's machine to fix something, rather than have them drag it out at Thanksgiving?

      Just some thoughts...
      Jim in Tokyo
    • You've got Linux! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Erris ( 531066 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:21AM (#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 ryanvm ( 247662 )
      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.
  • The ramifications of this are potentially mind boggling.

    Despite how much you may hate aol, the fact of the matter is that they have the hearts and computers of an incredible buttload of users, including someone in your family. It's just mind boggling.

    If they decided to have an AOL operating environment (UFS mount partition or something) We could see an incredible growth in linux.

    What does it really mean? Goddamn, they would do it because it would advance their business interests. How....
    • Not only that--but get this...

      AOL discs could be useful for something other than a coffee cup trivet or a pretty microwave oven light show.

      "AOL disc? Heh heh. That's a Red Hat Linux install disc in disguise. And they sent it to you free, you lucky bastard! You didn't even have to pay the Cheapbytes cost!"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I already have the Electrical and Water Utilities and hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place. I have a monopoly to maintain, dammit!
  • They hate MS so they buy what MS hates. The Larry Elisonization of corporate strategy.

    What the heck would AOL do with RH anyhow?

    At least I could get a new RH disk in the mail every 2 months.
    • Well put (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.

      • Re:Well put (Score:3, Funny)

        by ocbwilg ( 259828 )
        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.

        Cuz IBM *really* knows how to compete with MS in the OS marketspace...
  • by sultanoslack ( 320583 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:18AM (#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.
    • What would that be? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Erris ( 531066 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:41AM (#2866869) Homepage Journal
      f 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.

      What, pray tell, will M$ be able to offer AOL? Microsoft never ever held anything back. It's apparent that MicroSquish is trying to conquer all media on the PC with their goofey and inferior "standards". It's apparent that they are trying to move all PC users to the M$Notwork, with invasive advert cramming, spyware and general sleezyness for all. It's also apparent that they are trying to use their desktop share to force such bizare and awful protocalls as activeX on everyone. What will be left for anyone else in such a world? What can AOL do to help M$ achieve this, and what would they offer AOL for their complience? Will they offer to not break Netscape again? Right, who believes that one? M$ thinks it does not need AOL, and their corperate strategy makes no provisions for any other ISP but themselves.

      How wrong they are. If any sizable portion of AOL users moved to Linux, M$ would be doomed. There are 100 million or so AOL users out there, almost all of them on M$ platforms. Every year, a substantial proportion of them feel forced to "upgrade" their computer due to M$ induced bit rot. What AOL can now do is offer a free OS that works to those people, who are going to throw the old computer away! Why would they not give it a try? Then swoosh, millions of Linux users are born. Did you hear that? It's the sound of M$'s PC share going to hell and all their power with it.

  • Obligatory Errata (Score:3, Informative)

    by corby ( 56462 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:21AM (#2866499)
    ...Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 video-game console. Linux also runs the Sony product.

    The Washington Post may not be a rumor site, but they are not exactly Scientific American, either. Playstation 2 is not run by Linux, of course, although some of their development tools are.
  • Netscape (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fuzzy ( 87584 )
    "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!
  • wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by checkitout ( 546879 )
    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.
  • Nice ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by antis0c ( 133550 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:23AM (#2866513)
    Then they can finally rewrite Linux so it can support skins and built in ecommerce links. Then they can remarket it under Linux XP to catch up with Microsofts versioning schemes, and bundled hundreds of little AOL trial links in it. I can hardly wait.
  • All I can think of for a reason for AOL to buy Redhat is that they need new group of employees to pit against "those damn Winamp guys."
  • if they buy RedHat they are buying a distribution and a service company - not an OS.
  • by nadaou ( 535365 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:25AM (#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 Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:25AM (#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...

  • by chip_s_ahoy ( 318689 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:28AM (#2866540)
    Alan Cox works for AOL?...Dude! You've got patches!
  • 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.
    • by DorianGre ( 61847 )
      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.
  • Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BoneFlower ( 107640 ) <`george.worroll' `at' `'> on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:28AM (#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.
  • 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.

  • 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 long_john_stewart_mi ( 549153 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:30AM (#2866556)
    "... a rival operating system that works exclusively with the media giant's own Internet service provider, its Web browser or proprietary content."
    Now that's what I call a dumb terminal. =)
  • by smoon ( 16873 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:35AM (#2866578) Homepage
    Given that (for better or worse) RedHat is one of the cornerstone linux distros out there, forming the basis of Mandrake and many others, and Given the 'pay per view' mentality of cable combined with the 'enslave the idiots' mentality of AOL, do we have a potentially explosive mix coming together?

    Just suppose that this transaction went through -- given the millions if not billions that AOLTW could piss away on legal fees, would this pose a serious challenge to the GPL? I don't doubt that the FSF, EFF, RMS, and a whole bunch of people would get ticked off about it, file suit, and generally raise a lot of hell. But when push comes to shove and RedHat becomes AOL 8.5, closed source, $xyz per copy (or per view) -- what are we going to do about it? Heck, they could just stall long enough to buy politicians, not unlike how MS has been behaving lately.

    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.

    And lest I be branded an eternal pessimist, maybe they will instead piss away the budgeted fund earmarked for legal fees related to destroying linux on Free software development and contribution back to the community. To their credit the Mozilla project is still going.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:36AM (#2866588) Journal

    Customer: I can't connect.

    Tech: What's your operating system?

    Customer: AOL.

    Tech: (trying not to laugh) No sir, that's your browser. I need to know what comes up when you turn on your computer.

    Customer: I told you. AOL.

    Tech: Maybe AOL is in your startup folder. What comes up before AOL?

    Customer: It's the first thing that comes up.

    Manager: Can you put the customer on hold?

    Tech: Can you hold please?

    Customer: OK.

    Tech: Sorry this is taking so long. I've got a real idiot. Thinks his OS is AOL.

    Manager: Didn't you get the memo?

    Tech: What memo?

    Tech 2: Hey did you see that guy go postal in cubicle 6?

    Tech 3: No. By the way, there's some kind of memo. Have you read it?

    Tech 2: Nah. I was gonna wait until break...

  • by SkewlD00d ( 314017 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @12:59AM (#2866703)
    unix shell gets banner-ads, film at 11. =)
  • Stallman?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:01AM (#2866715)

    Richard Stallman will go on a shooting rampage when he hears about this:

    It's not GNU/Linux anymore! It's AOL /Linux!

  • 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 A_Non_Moose ( 413034 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:29AM (#2866828) Homepage Journal
    1) Red hat AOL user (aka RHAOL...pronounced RAH-OOL) fires up the AOL security check and hears "you got owned".

    2) Just when you think it can't get any worse, they place ads on TV with Scooby Doo as the spokes 'toon saying "Red Rat Ray-roh-rel rits rumber run!'

    3) The Red hat on the Redhat symbol gets down to the "chin level" to hide its shame.

    4) A vulnerability in sendmail allows a script kiddie to parse all the email from AOL thru the "borkinator" script (inserts Swedish Chef comments into text)...oddly enough, no one notices for 2 years even when calling tech support and "this is (insert name of tech) how may I BORK! BORK! BORK! Help you".

    5) World-wide several BSD and Slackware users are hospitalized for asphixiation from laughing so hard they could not breath for several minutes.

    Just a few thoughts.
  • by Sleepy ( 4551 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @01:32AM (#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.

    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 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 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 []] 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.

  • 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 []) 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.

  • GPL to the rescue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Saturday January 19, 2002 @04:01PM (#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.
    • 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.

  • 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.
    • 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.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!