Red Hat to Push Desktop Linux with Intel Partnership
Published: May 15, 2007
by Dan Burger
Matthew Szulik, Red Hat's chief executive officer, is a soft-spoken man--more of an actions-speak-louder-than-words kind of guy. In his keynote address at the opening of the Red Hat Summit in San Diego last week, he tip-toed his way through topics that would make most corporate marketing executives cringe. Not that Szulik downplays his company's achievements or passes up opportunities to pin the tail on the Microsoft donkey. He just doesn't shout it out or unfurl it on signs that are four-stories tall.
Much of what Szulik had to say painted Red Hat as a company that was taking advantage of--not following in the footsteps of--the incumbent IT stalwarts. His term-limits message conveyed a strong belief in a new business model and fresh technology. Easier said than done, but nonetheless it is refreshing to consider these things from a different perspective. Of course, a different perspective is at the core of open source, so continuing that theme plays well to the Linux audience, as does the low-key marketing approach, which, by the way, follows through with the vendor expo where everyone gets the same tabletop style booth.
By not playing ball according to the rules of the other IT guys, Szulik says Red Hat can make a more level playing field and, therefore, a better playing field. The company plans to do that by emphasizing interoperability (note that this takes place at the data level rather than the file system level), taking advantage of favorable price/performance advances, and remaining vendor neutral on the hardware side because the hardware is only becoming less and less critical as the emphasis in IT shifts to software. (Funny how the software guys always say that, eh?) In one form or another, you've heard this all before.
What Red Hat was most interested in unveiling at its summit was the availability of Red Hat Global Desktop. Szulik calls it a new business PC paradigm. It is the company's best effort at increasing performance and reducing price--you might say eliminating bloatware--so that buyers in emerging markets have entry-level machines. Local governments and small businesses are the meat and potatoes of this market, as Red Hat officials define it.
The Global Desktop will likely get tagged with the label of "stripped down PC," and naturally Red Hat will deflect that, noting that it delivers a more modern user interface compared to traditional PCs while also offering an enterprise-class suite of productivity applications. Compared to Microsoft's Vista operating system that increases the price of the operating system and requires more powerful, more expensive hardware to run it, Red Hat is quite pleased with its product.
Oh, and you might be interested in knowing that Red Hat's partner in this endeavor is Intel. When most people think of Intel, they think of processors. That's certainly a part of this partnership, but it really focuses on getting Global Desktop certified for the whole business-class PC platform, which Intel calls vPro. An equally important cog in this wheel is the Intel worldwide reseller channel organization, which will put its seal of approval on desktop Linux and help steer customers toward Global Desktop when they want to consider Linux. That's pretty much a turnkey support and distribution network, which will give Red Hat a running start at taming the emerging market frontier.
The Intel channel already sells to thousands of whitebox PC and server builders that, in turn, sell to the small businesses and government entities in the emerging markets that Red Hat is targeting. As Red Hat officials see it, those systems builders know their customers and understand what they need for the system they expect to deploy and what they can afford. When the system builder buys from Intel, the option to by Red Hat Global Desktop will be made available.
It will come packaged with hardware and include an operating system and a suite of applications. Systems builders will also provide the front line support.
A beta of Global Desktop is expected within a couple of months, but the final product is still 18 months out. No pricing has been announced.
Szulik refers to Global Desktop as the key to Red Hat's "long anticipated pursuit of the desktop with a Linux client." In his words, "The landscape is littered with people who have tried to become a component of [the Windows] infrastructure. Most of those companies are no longer around."
Five years ago, in the earlier stages of Red Hat's "pursuit," a discussion with a customer would not have included the topic of desktop options. "Now they come up in every discussion with CIOs," Szulik said. He points to virtualization as the reason and specifically it comes with Linux being able to host Windows clients, so customers can add the security and manageability of Linux, but can run Windows client.
Red Hat has been driving the adoption and innovation of security products on the desktop, which helped it gain some traction in the enterprise desktop space. Selling the desktop functionality itself is the next logical step in market expansion.
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