Bob Young: Red Hat's chairman is confident about facing off against the Microsoft juggernaut

www.infoworld.com |  Development

With the formal launch of Windows 2000 last week by the industry's most powerful force, Microsoft, it is conceivable to think that leading members of the Linux OS community might be at least a little edgy. Not Bob Young. As chairman of Red Hat, the leading distributor of Linux, Young remains steadfast in his belief that the momentum his open-source operating system has established will continue unabated despite the media storm that Windows 2000 figures to create. Young sat down with InfoWorld Editor at Large Ed Scannell to discuss the impact Windows 2000 might have, or lack, among users and developers.

InfoWorld: Given its improved enterprise-level features and the marketing muscle expected to back it, does Windows 2000's arrival change the nature of your competitive game with Microsoft?

Young: No, not even a little bit. [Red Hat has] always been up against much better funded competitors in the open-source space all along with Caldera being the best example. We have the market share we do because we have focused on delivering a single unique benefit that the proprietary operating systems vendors aren't prepared to deliver. That benefit is giving users control over the technology we are asking them to invest in through open-source technology.

InfoWorld: But Windows 2000 is reportedly more reliable and more scalable than its predecessors. Doesn't this apply any more pressure to the Linux community?

Young: [Windows 2000] has one major problem that normally [Microsoft] could use as a huge advantage over us, but this time they can't; that's the lack of backward compatibility. If you read Microsoft's own marketing materials, they are very precise about not making assurances that your old Windows applications will run on Windows 2000. Microsoft, to their credit, is trying to move the technology forward by moving off the old DOS architecture, which is a non-sustainable architecture going forward. But the fact that they are doing that means that a lot of applications that were engineered around DOS are going to have problems running on Windows 2000. Anyway, it gives us a wonderful opportunity.

InfoWorld: Are you optimistic that Microsoft will make some of Windows 2000's code open-source?

Young: I suspect they will do some tactical open-source thing. But their real problem in the operating system space is that their whole company is built around this proprietary model. They have a heroin addiction to selling more and more royalties to their operating systems. Guys like [Microsoft President and CEO] Steve Ballmer say the company is going to become more of an Internet services company and you go, 'Yeah sure, he will have to re-engineer the whole company.'

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