Red Hat CEO Questions Relevance of Desktop Linux

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst questioned the relevance of Linux on the desktop, citing several financial and interoperability hurdles to business adoption at a panel on end-users and Linux last night at the OSBC.

“First of all, I don’t know how to make money on it,” Whitehurst said, adding that he was uncertain how relevant the desktop itself will be in five years given advances in cloud-based and smartphone computing, as well as VDI. “The concept of a desktop is kind of ridiculous in this day and age. I’d rather think about skating to where the puck is going to be than where it is now.”

Despite increasing awareness that desktop Linux is ready for widespread mainstream adoption, fellow panelists questioned the practicality of switching to Linux, noting that even Linux developers prefer Macs to Linux. “There’s a desire [to use desktop Linux],” one panelist said, “but practicality sets in. There are significant barriers to switching.”

Still, another panellist disagreed. K.S. Bhaskar, senior vice president of Fidelity Information Services, is very happy with Linux, and his family even use it at home. “I kicked the Windows habit 10 years ago,” Bhaskar said. “In the group that I have at work, Linux is our primary desktop that we’ve been using since 2000.”

As is always the case with Linux on the desktop, there are people of all walks of life that don’t see the point, and there are lots of people who do see the point. I believe that there’s definitely money to be made with desktop Linux, it’s just that no one found the right business model yet (Canonical isn’t making any either). I think the best option would be to have an Apple-like model, where you produce desirable laptops and desktops with a good implementation of Ubuntu, using only open drivers.

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