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Red Hat 9 Aims at Cutting Down on Freeloaders

Red Hat 9 Aims at Cutting Down on Freeloaders

Red Hat is putting a squeeze on the freeloaders who use the freebie, aka "redistributable," software that the company now considers the consumer version of its operating system, hoping to turn as many of them as it can into paying customers. 

On Monday when it wheels out the latest cut of the consumer code - stuff that will also sell at retail starting April 7 - the company will break with tradition and banish point upgrades to oblivion. If it had stuck with its usual practice, this next cut would have been designated Red Hat 8.1. Instead it's going to be Red Hat Linux 9.0. 

Point upgrades like Red Hat 7.1 and 7.2 were supposed to be stable versions of the operating systems meant for corporate use, marketing VP Mark de Visser said, and were "relatively backward-compatible" with 7.0. Red Hat hasn't even tested the backward-compatibility of 9.0 with 8.0, he said, and makes no representations about it. Applications software may not work with it.

Major whole-number upgrades of the operating system traditionally picked up all the latest and greatest Linux widgetry, which could make it flaky. Red Hat 9.0, for instance, incorporates new threading, which De Visser says is bound to make it behave differently from its predecessor. 

Red Hat is also tightening the screws on its support guarantees. It will only provide errata support for Red Hat 9 for a year from release, not three years as it has before. Support for 7.0, 7.1, 7.2 and 8.0, released last September, will end on December 31, reducing Red Hat's support costs.

With Red Hat reserving promises of compatibility, reliability and stability for its paid software, corporates who use its free software may opt to go to Debian as a result, De Vissar said, but the company counts them as little loss, figuring it could never have gotten them to pay for software anyway.

The move follows on the heels of Red Hat segmenting its paid software into a high-end Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS, its old Advanced Server, and a new cut-down mid-range system called Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES that supports one or two processors and a maximum four gigs of RAM. ES is priced at either $350 or $800 a year depending on how much support is involved. AS still starts at $800 and now runs to $3,000. 

Red Hat created ES to monetize people who have been using its free software for FTP, web serving and file and print applications, a space it wasn't previously able to address before, having been limited by Advanced Server to stuff like database. 

De Visser says the number is hard to derive, but the company figures Red Hat 8.0 has seen 15 million-20 million downloads.

Meanwhile, the most significant change in Red Hat 9 is the addition of Native Posix Threading Library, which should increase scalability and speed and standardize development processes. It should pave the way to Java support. 

Red Hat 9 also includes a more polished version of the Bluecurve GUI, the controversial KDE-Gnome combine Red Hat first put in Red Hat 8, OpenOffice, Apache 2.0, the Mozilla browser and Ximian Evolution.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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