Red Hat confirmed on Aug. 3 that it would be delaying the release of the newest member of its desktop Linux family, Red Hat Global Desktop, because the company is seeking to provide certain multimedia codecs. Sources close to Red Hat said obtaining some of these codecs was dependent on Red Hat coming to an agreement with Microsoft.
In Red Hat’s official statement, company spokesperson Leigh Cantrell Day said, “We have finished the development phase of producing Global Desktop and are now polishing it up and testing it. We initially were trying to bring Global Desktop to market by August, but decided to delay until September. To improve the user experience, we have been looking at how we can provide legal versions of the most popular multimedia codecs needed to listen and view the majority of the content on the internet. We are wrapping those negotiations up and hope to deliver those codecs with Global Desktop when we launch in September.”
Sources close to the Linux distributor said Red Hat was seeking to conclude negotiations with Microsoft for access to its popular WMF (Windows Media Format) codecs. These codecs have been included in other Microsoft deals with Linux vendors including its partnerships with Linspire, Turbolinux and Xandros.
Red Hat, based in Raleigh, N.C., and Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., have been flirting with forming a technical partnership for several months now. On July 3, Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s executive vice president of engineering, said, “I want to talk to the folks at Microsoft about our two operating systems and how we can work together to solve real customer problems without attaching any unrelated strings, such as intellectual property.”
Microsoft, as usual, insisted that intellectual property issues were irrevocably bound into any Linux technology partnership deal.
Later in July, Microsoft’s Horacio Gutierrez, vice president of intellectual property and licensing, said, “Red Hat and Microsoft have previously had conversations about interoperability, but none of our recent conversations have included discussions about intellectual property cooperation.” The key phrase was “none of our recent conversations.” Red Hat and Microsoft were continuing to work on improving Red Hat Linux and Microsoft software interoperability.
It now appears the first fruits of this forthcoming partnership will be in Global Desktop’s multimedia capabilities. Another likely result of this deal for the desktop will be improved interoperability between Red Hat’s Global Desktop LDAP and Windows Server’s AD (Active Directory).
In Red Hat’s statement, Day explained that the Global Desktop is designed for small business and local government agency users around the world. “At Red Hat, we want to see Linux desktops become widely adopted around the world. But we believe there is no money or value in creating a Windows clone. To enable the wide adoption of Linux desktops, we believe we need to offer a different product than a Windows clone and offer it through broader distribution channels than ? has been done in the past. That’s what we will do with Red Hat Global Desktop,” Day said.
According to Day, Red Hat Global Desktop will provide everything a user would expect to have in a first-rate desktop at an affordable price. In addition, although Red Hat releases a new version of its enterprise software, RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), once every 24 months, Global Desktop will be refreshed every year. “This means that users will get quicker access to new technology, new versions of applications and new hardware drivers,” Day said.
Red Hat is also planning on delivering Global Desktop via a white-box-based distribution channel. This channel will be built on top of Intel’s channel of system builders. Day explained that the company is taking this path instead of working with big-name vendors like Dell and Hewlett-Packard because “the reality is that most of the world buys from white-box vendors. White-box vendors are in a position to better understand this market’s needs, what they can afford, and then deliver that solution. Our partner, Intel, has done a great job designing PCs aimed at these markets and enabling this very large distribution channel of local system builders. By creating this partnership, we will support Intel’s growing lines of low-cost PCs and greatly expand the distribution channels to these markets beyond what has been traditionally available.”
At the same time, Day said, Red Hat plans to continue work on three other desktop initiatives. These are:
1) Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop – This is an enterprise-class desktop targeted at professional computing users who value performance and reliability. According to Red Hat, this desktop provides enterprises with additional value by emphasizing savings through rock-solid security and efficient system management tools.
2) One Laptop Per Child – This is a desktop targeted for children in developing nations and intended to redefine educational tools. The goal of this team is to provide a groundbreaking user experience for children in an educational setting.
3) Online Desktop – This is an effort to redefine the desktop for users who are taking advantage of the growth of SAAS (software as a service) and now use their computers largely as an Internet front-end, with few or no “offline” applications. The aim is to integrate those online experiences into the desktop.