Ever since Oracle announced they’ll be selling support for Red Hat Linux on the 25th, I’ve noticed a lot of “Red-Hat-This” and “Oracle-That” news articles, blog entries and editorials zipping across my feed reader. Since I read a Reuters story about the announcement at work (thanks to GM’s spiffy Intranet tech news service), since then I’ve pretty much just been scanning headlines and occasionally reading the first few lines of eye-catching feeds.
What’s struck me so far – and this is a wildly unscientific, completely subjective and empirical observation – is that for the most part it seems like a lot of Chicken-Littles squawking and speculating about what’ll happen to Red Hat, why Larry Ellison should switch to decaf, or (waxing ethereal) what Oracle’s move will mean to The Movement. When I read some of those that fall into the last category, I almost feel like I should buy a big straight overcoat and an Ushanka and start calling my fellow Linux users “comrades”. That, and buy a Kalishnikov rifle – a purchase I’ve been meaning to make anyway.
But I think the posts that surprise (and sadden) me the most are the ones that are already most of the way to writing Red Hat’s obituary. This isn’t because I own any Red Hat stock (though some of my more tech-oriented mutual funds might), or because I’m a Red Hat user (I’m using Ubuntu at the moment, but I may try Suse), or even because I worry that a collapse at Red Hat would silence a strong Linux voice, advocate and success story (though it would). The real reason I believe the nay-sayers are wrong is simple: they’re underestimating Red Hat – not the company, but the people…
Sure, it’s easy to make a wrong move in the business world, especially in a market as difficult-to-navigate as the software industry. But I believe the people at Red Hat are no different than the people at any other motivated enterprise – they’re passionate about what they do. They eat, sleep and breathe their product, and – believe it or not – they have a bit of an interest in seeing their company succeed. In the spirit of American inginuity, business strength and passion, I believe the good folks at Red Hat will do just that – they’ll do what they’ve done from the beginning: they’ll innovate, solve problems, continue building a supportive foundation of satisfied customers, and fight hard to stay competitive.
Yes, they may lose some market share to Oracle. Yes, they may have to market a bit more aggressively, work a few extra hours and sharpen their cost-cutting pencils. Yes, the pundits will make dire predictions (even if it’s just in the hope that, if Red Hat really does fail, they’ll be able to claim “you heard it here first”). But I’m not ready to write Red Hat’s obituary just yet. My belief in a free-market economy, and my faith in the potential for conversion of peoples’ passion into innovation and success via hard work, just won’t let me.