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Red Hat scurries away from consumer desktop market

Pesky Microsoft just won't play ball

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Linux and open source software giant Red Hat has abandoned plans to develop a consumer desktop product because it cannot compete with the might of Microsoft.

The firm said in a statement yesterday: “As a public, for-profit company, Red Hat must create products and technologies with an eye on the bottom line, and with desktops this is much harder to do than with servers.

“The desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today’s Linux desktops simply don’t provide a practical alternative.”

That dominant vendor which Red Hat also described as a bad "community player" is of course Microsoft, with its Windows operating system.

Red Hat has also been forced to rejig its roadmap somewhat. The company said its Red Hat Global Desktop (RHGD) product – which was announced last year and is aimed at the small, reseller-supplied deployments in emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India and Russia – has been delayed by nearly a year.

Red Hat had originally planned to cough up RHGD in the next few months, but said that “business issues” have pushed the launch date back.

It’s encountered a variety of problems with developing the product including startup delays with resellers, hardware and market changes and “some multimedia codec licensing knotholes”.

Red Hat acknowledged it had stumbled onto the garden fork with its second failed attempt at a consumer desktop Linux distribution in as many years. Explaining the rather hefty RHGD delay, it urged caution: “The desktop business model is tough, so we want to be prepared before delivering a product to the emerging markets.”

Yesterday, Novell’s president and CEO Ronald Hovesepian agreed that it will take time to develop its own Suse Linux desktop distribution for the consumer market.

According to reports, he said: “The consumer market is taking longer to develop… The market for the desktop for the next three to five years is mainly enterprise-related."

Major computer makers such as Dell and HP have been experimenting with open source flavoured desktop products over the past year in an apparent attempt to satisfy customer demand by offering a Windows alternative. But even though the Vista OS has received a lukewarm at best response from customers, it's too early to declare Linux a fully fledged consumer OS.®

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