Five Reasons Red Hat Should Ignore Consumer Linux Desktops

The VAR Guy

May 16, 2008

2 Min Read
Five Reasons Red Hat Should Ignore Consumer Linux Desktops

Okay, it has been about a month since Red Hat said it had no plans to offer a consumer Linux release. Lots of folks went ballistic. The VAR Guy didn’t. Instead, he took some time to digest the news. And now he’s ready to say — definitively — that Red Hat made the right decision. Here are five reasons why Red Hat should ignore pleas for a consumer Linux release.

1. Money: Where is Red Hat going to generate the best profit margins and recurring revenue? The consumer desktop business is cutthroat. Meanwhile, global 2000 companies are willing to pay for ongoing service and support for higher-margin server deployments. That’s Red Hat’s sweet spot. And Red Hat should double down on that market by pushing deeper into applications that complement Linux.

2. Applications: Sure, Microsoft makes a ton of money selling Windows and the Office suite. But there’s no equivalent revenue opportunity in the open source world. Yes, OpenOffice is super hot. But is there really money to be made from open source desktop applications? If so, Red Hat certainly doesn’t own any of them.

3. Software as a Service: The real desktop opportunity involves SaaS. Desktops and mobile devices increasingly rely on Web browsers to access hosted applications. So there’s less software revenue opportunity on the desktop, but increasing revenue opportunity on servers with SaaS.

4. IBM OS/2 Warp: This entry should incite a few thousand angry readers. But here we go. Anybody else remember when IBM tried to make the leap from corporate software into the consumer market? It was a nightmare. Big Blue didn’t understand consumer support models, and thousands of customers wound up frustrated. The same would happen with Red Hat, which isn’t organized to support consumers.

5. Ubuntu: Right now, Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux is the desktop darling of the open source world. Wonderful. Let Canonical continue to enjoy that spotlight. If Ubuntu truly goes mainstream, then Red Hat can mull buying Canonical. If Ubuntu never gains critical mass in the mainstream market, Red Hat can continue to take a wait-and-see approach to consumer Linux. (Full disclosure: The VAR Guy blogs about Ubuntu over on his sister site, Works With U.)

Ultimately, there’s no good business reason for Red Hat to move into the consumer desktop market right now. Linux advocates who claim otherwise are making emotional — rather than business-driven — statements.

Bottom line:

  • Red Hat has a strong corporate server business.

  • Red Hat is struggling to get its corporate desktop business moving in the right direction.

  • Adding consumer challenges to the mix would be foolish.

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