Why CentOS will not become the next Microsoft

Submitted by dag on Fri, 2008/05/30 - 14:11

The subject may sound weird to you, but all the arguments that free CentOS from becoming the next Microsoft can be used to to counter the pundits that position Red Hat as being the next Microsoft.

(You may think this statement is so nineties, but a recent opinion piece that got onto Slashdot prompted similar comments)

We can only ask ourselves why someone would want us to believe that Red Hat is the next Microsoft, but let me reiterate why neither CentOS nor Red Hat will be the next Microsoft:

  • The source code is freely available
  • There is a level playing field (read: no monopoly) for all Open Source contributors to innovate and integrate (thanks to the GPL)
  • Red Hat employs hundreds of Open Source developers that contribute to development for and maintains a lot of Open Source projects that form the base of every Linux distribution (more than any other company)
  • The Fedora project is a good example how the community and Red Hat interact to the benefit of everyone and a good entry point to become part of the community
  • Improvements made by Red Hat are being imported in Ubuntu, SuSE Linux and other Linux distributions (and vice versa)
  • Red Hat does not sell any software, it sells support, services and training
  • Red Hat even buys proprietary software, improves it and makes it free (GFS, FDS, MetaMatrix, ...)
  • Red Hat combats software patents and promotes only open standards (unlike others)
  • And last (but certainly not least from where I am standing) the fact that we have a project like CentOS proofs that Open Source is honest business, you only pay for value

So my believe is that Red Hat is in this position because they obviously did something right and people or companies value their offering, even though it may not appeal to everyone in every situation. Unlike Microsoft they are not in a position to lock you into something mostly because there are enough alternatives.

And if there is really a point in looking who will become the next Microsoft, the danger is more likely to come from here, here or here. Although don't expect Microsoft to give in that easy. We have seen from the recent OOXML debacle, that Microsoft is more eager to push its monopoly through everyone's throat than it cares about its public image.

I am pretty sure Microsoft will be much more careful next time though... And we will be too :-)

I am sure I did not cover all items, so if you think I missed a hot spot or I am being too favorable, feel free to add your comment.


Good post. Red Hat is really doing lots and lots of good OSS work which unfortunately often goes unnoticed, comparing them to Microsoft is stupid.

However as I use both CentOS and Ubuntu I find it sad that you included an incorrect flame against Ubuntu. Your link shows packages which are in the separate "multiverse" repository (not enabled by default) for non-free packages. Debian also have a separate repository like this, and having it is hardly the same thing as promoting closed standards. A better exempel of Ubuntu doing something bad regarding free software would be that they include NVIDIA and ATI binary drivers on their CDs.

Good point

You make a good point. Shipping binary drivers in the base distribution is an unfair advantage to promote Ubuntu compared to Fedora and is a much better argument than mine.

When Ubuntu ships closed binary drivers they are weakening the communities position that hardware should come with proper documentation how to use it (either by means of text documentation or Open Source drivers). The aim here is to make sure that users do not buy hardware that is undocumented and therefor companies financially benefit from being fair to their buyers and to the Open Source community. Because users should be able to use their hardware for what it was designed for.

However I disagree about the fact that it is an "incorrect flame", I call it being critical. Being critical only results in a flame if people start shouting at each other without first listening. Luckily that didn't happen yet on my blog :-)

RH does right for the Linux community

You forgot to add that RH will not sign an extortion deal which could be beneficial to them but harmful to other Linux distros.

They arent averse to working with Redmond, just not by their terms which are a tacit agreement that Linux has hundreds of Microsoft's IP spread throughout.

Red Hat has ethics when it comes to opens source which is more than I can say for Microsoft, SUSE, Linspire and Xandros.