2010-09-28

Red Hat: The New Big Monopoly?

Given the presence of Microsoft and Apple, of course Red Hat can't be a monopoly (at least in the desktop market). However, there have been a slew of reports of Oracle rebranding RHEL as Oracle Linux a.k.a. "Unbreakable Linux". This article (Brian Proffitt, ITworld) discusses how that and Amazon Linux AMI (Amazon's Linux distribution built for its own cloud servers) are proof that companies are "stealing" Linux, as Oracle and Amazon are bundling their hardware with their own Linux distributions.
First, I think it's misleading (at best) to say these companies are "stealing" Linux. How is what they are doing any different from what Canonical, Novell, and Red Hat do to Linux? Are they also "stealing" Linux to make their own distribution? I feel like this is the point of free software — allowing anyone to build customized versions of software to fit their own needs; good for Oracle and Amazon for taking full advantage of the benefits of Linux and free software. I don't think Oracle and Amazon are going to prevent loading other Linux distributions; it's just that the bundled distribution will be Oracle Linux or Amazon Linux AMI, as opposed to Microsoft Windows or Ubuntu. Also, isn't this what was supposed to happen to Android — phone makers customizing Android to suit their phones' needs? Isn't this what is happening, at any rate? Saying these companies are "stealing" Linux to suit their needs just seems a bit silly to me.
The bigger problem I have, though, is that both Oracle Linux and Amazon Linux are based off of RHEL. I think it's great that Red Hat has become so successful and so widespread, but this incredible adoption rate worries me at the same time because it could give Red Hat a monopoly over the market similar to the one Microsoft currently has over the desktop market (and I fear similar effects stemming from this). Come on, Canonical and Novell. (I am fully aware that it's easy for me to say this from the comfort of my keyboard.) Learn from Red Hat and give Red Hat some competition. People will have more choice regarding the back-end, and everyone wins from choice and competition.

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