Red Hat: No plans for a traditional consumer desktop

Red Hat has delayed its promised desktop...again. But is it missing out on anything?

Red Hat has been suggesting for years that it isn't interested in the traditional consumer desktop as a business, but it has finally come out and said it in concrete terms:

[W]e have no plans to create a traditional desktop product for the consumer market in the foreseeable future.

That's OK, presumably, because there isn't a market for it today, anyway, as Novell's Ron Hovsepian recently noted. Hence, Novell is focusing its desktop efforts on the enterprise.

But I don't think either Novell or Red Hat are nearly as focused on the desktop as they are on the server, where the real money is. Only Ubuntu, community platform that it is (with a much smaller revenue base to grow), can really afford to make the Linux desktop a top focus (though, having said this, Novell does put a lot of resources into improving its desktop product - I'm still waiting to receive my copy of SLED so I can give it a spin...).

From Red Hat, the most interesting work that it has done is in conceptualizing a novel Linux desktop. In Red Hat speak, this was the One Laptop Per Child project but has morphed into something bigger: the Red Hat Global Desktop. Unfortunately, RHGD has been delayed a few times and was announced to be delayed again:

We originally hoped to deliver RHGD within a few months, and indeed the technology side of the product is complete. There have, however, been a number of business issues that have conspired to delay the product for almost a year. These include hardware and market changes, startup delays with resellers, getting the design and delivery of appropriate services nailed down and, unsurprisingly, some multimedia codec licensing knotholes. Right now we are still working our way through these issues.

In the meantime, Novell still rules the corporate Linux desktop (which unfortunately is still a bit like being the tallest skyscraper in Provo, Utah...), Ubuntu rules the community desktop (which means great branding but not much money), and Red Hat dabbles with OLPC and other such projects (again, no money).

None of which can be hugely profitable to any of the vendors, but it does make for an interesting Linux desktop landscape, something that can't be said for the generic Windows desktop market which is as bland as it is massive.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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