Red Hat CEO sees no need for Linux desktop today

By Justin Mann on March 25, 2009, 1:32 PM
We've heard countless times that “this year” will be the year of the Linux desktop. The Linux user base has certainly grown, but not at the ratio that a Linux vendor like Red Hat would want. It's for that reason that Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, has expressed doubt that desktop Linux has mainstream relevance today. Addressing questions of interoperability, adoption rates, cost, support and more, Whitehurst claims that they can't make money on Linux desktops and may not even plan to. Further he suggests that while Linux has been successful on servers, even trying to push Linux on the desktop is a foolish move at this point, because what people need now will be radically different in just a few years.

It's an interesting commentary that does bring up a good point. You can break down today's desktop usage into office work, gaming, multimedia, social networking and numerous other facets. The majority of these did not exist when the desktop was spawned, and who knows what new facets will come to light as the desktop continues to evolve with the advent of cloud-based computing and smartphones. If Linux tries to compete with modern-day Windows desktop standards, but does it on a game plan that lasts five years or so, it seems that it would be a losing proposition.

Perhaps the stance of competing with Windows is the wrong one to take. Rather than overcome existing barriers, Linux vendors need to predict what sort of obstacles the desktop will face in five or ten years. It seems Red Hat may be on to that notion, and could offer something completely different in the future.

User Comments: 3

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phantasm66 said:
I love this article. Nice one Justin. Oh, and I have been saying this for years.I don't believe in Linux for the desktop. Now, don't misunderstand me, Linux is VERY VERY VERY VERY important to what I do. But only for its server functions, its shell, its compilers, etc. These things are VITAL - well to me and what I do, anyway.Its a wonderful development and hacking platform. You just could not ask for more.But its desktop and hardware support (of certain things) is just so crap.What I actually do these days is run a linux virtual machine inside vmware, and don't even install Xwindows at all! No windows, gnome, kde or anything. Just the aforementioned shell, kernel, compilers, etc. The stuff I need.I then run this on Microsoft Windows and when I need a shell I just open one in putty.I really don't understand why more people don't just do this given that vmware server is free and that you can accomplish this using very little in the way of RAM.I hope Linux creators forget the desktop pretty much altogether other than as a basic interface that gives you a GUI when you really need one and just concentrate on what they do well, i.e a great kernel, shell, all these kick all top notch tools you get, etc.Anyone disagree?
tengeta said:
Honestly thats why I've always been hesitant to use Linux outside virtual machines.It just seems like I installed a Windows Server, but actually have to configure it more. While I myself may be willing to deal with that, I guarantee you 100% that the vast majority simply don't want to have to do more than click around.Its simply not what Linux was designed for.
Badfinger said:
Until Linux gets the gaming companies behind it, forgetaboutit!I'd love for that day to come though!
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