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Microsoft software ‘like heroin addiction’ – Red Hat

Rob Young shows off red socks at Q&A

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WCIT 2000 After his keynote speech, Rob Young met the press and was perfectly happy to field questions about Microsoft and the industry, as the following questions and plangent answers show.

Q Would a split off Microsoft applications division port apps to Linux?
A With Microsoft and the son of Microsoft, an applications company would no longer have any reason not to port applications to the Linux operating system but that's probably a minimum of two years in the future.

Q Do you have the confidence to beat Microsoft and gain the number one slot?
A We have the confidence to beat Microsoft. But our competition is not with Microsoft or IBM or Sun but with the proprietary, binary only model. Our multi-billion competitors are not prepared to deliver [freedom from] that.

Open Source phenomenon is the fourth great shift in this industry. Each has delivered a unique benefit to customers. Customers don't want to go back to the proprietary model once they've tasted that.

Q How can you hold off Microsoft Open Source Software?
A We've spent a lot of time looking at the probable reaction of our major competitors and partners. We do not worry about Microsoft developing Open Source applications. Their revenue stream is based on a heroin addiction of selling ever more software. For Microsoft to abandon that model of generating huge margins would require a massive re-engineering of their company. They'd have to walk away from all their royalty revenues, and I'm not sure their share holders would tolerate it.

Q Can Linux break Microsoft's monopoly on operating systems?
A You're going to have to invite me for a couple of beers for me to justice to that question, and after a couple of beers I might be able to answer you. Red Hat's success comes not from our ambition to dent the desktop market. The desktop is 1980s technology, designed around the 8086 architecture and they've tried to drag this technology model screaming and kicking into the Internet age and that's why you have the I Love You virus.

Q Has the media concentrated overmuch about Linux on the desktop?
A Information appliances are the future of computing and they'll be talking to the server. The growth in PC desktops is slowing dramatically and the growth in server business is growing dramatically. John "Mad Dog" Hall, who is now running Linux International, and who does drink beer, said: "Don't worry about the 400 million PCs out there -- there are six billion people on the planet, worry about the other 5.6 billion people. The desktop is tactically important to us. Open Source technology is manna from heaven to application development engineers. The result is we're seeing incredible applications like the Tivo set top box. The other example is TalkWare, building an information appliance for your kitchen accessing local newspapers.

Q Why do you wear a red hat?
A I've always worn red socks and it was a hard decision between Red Socks and Red Hat. Red hats have been a symbol of fighting for freedom, with Roman slaves wearing red bandanas and French revolutionaries cocquades...at Carnegie Mellon red hats were a symbol of technical excellence.

Q Should Microsoft be broken up and what do you think of Bill Gates argument that the browser is an integral part of the operating system?
A I have no idea if Microsoft will be broken up, but I have confidence that the DoJ will do the right thing. Gates' argument that you can't separate an operating system from a browser carries some weight. Gates would love it if that browser were Internet Explorer, but I don't think it's in the interests of the industry to do that. It's my job to ensure there are viable alternatives.

(Young closes session by lifting his trouser leg up to display a red sock for convenience of hordes of snappers at the Q&A. "Red socks - me and Marilyn Monroe, eh?") ®

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