Subject: Re: Linux and GPL vs BSD debate.
From: Bob Young <>
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 21:58:40 -0400

> > Did Red Hat choose Linux for the same reasons?  I'm wondering if Red
> > Hat didn't choose Linux and chose one of the BSD's, would Linux
> > still come out on top?

This might be the nicest thing anyone has said about us in a long time. 

> It would not have changed much for Signum Support. 

We chose Linux for similar reasons that Signum did (for the 
record - Signum was in the Linux support business before Red Hat 
was created).

It related to the perceived openness of Linux vs BSD.  We perceived 
that we would have to ask someone's permission to work with the BSD 
developers, but Linus was so public about his lack of interest in 
attempting to control, or even influence, what anyone did with Linux 
that it just seemed easier.

The second most important factor was that Linux's momentum at the time 
meant that more device drivers were being made available more rapidly 
on Linux than on the BSD's at the time, which in turn meant Linux ran 
on more existing PC hardware, creating a larger market for our CD-Rom 

But I will admit that the GPL license terms vs the BSD license terms 
played a small role, here's the story:

When we launched Red Hat Software, Inc,  we planned to sell 
an operating system.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to 
recognize that being in the OS business meant that we were competing 
with Microsoft.

While our ambitions at the outset were quite limited, we can drink as 
much beer as anyone, and on those occasions when our natural 
intelligence was at its most limited, we'd speculate on what  
Microsoft's reaction would be when we became a real threat.

The answer was that they would do exactly what they have done to 
Java, namely take the product we had helped build, produce the 
Microsoft version (M$-Linux) and use their billions to out-market us.

Now if Linux was BSD'd at that time, Microsoft would also be able to use 
their billions to develop terrific new features that they would not 
have to share.  They could then compete with more marketing dollars 
-and- a better product.

Not a happy future scenario for a couple of hill-billies funding a 
start-up with our credit cards.  And (remembering that we'd have consumed 
several beer by this time) we were convinced we could corner 
at least a small share of the OS market competing with Microsoft's marketing 
machine.  What we didn't want was to have to compete with their thousands 
of software developers adding new proprietary features to their M$-Linux 
that we could not use, and might not be able to replicate, while they could 
use any new feature we might introduce.

I forgot to mention:  a key part of our business plan was, 
and continues to be, the competitive advantage of delivering the 
technical benefits of freely redistributable software (source code 
and a free license) to technically oriented OS consumers - which is 
why Microsoft would be able to use any features we'd developed.
Needless to say - the terms of the GPL would (hypothetically at least)
require Microsoft to make available to us the source to any "terrific 
new features" they added to M$-Linux, thereby leveling the playing 
field in a technology-features competition sense.

Of course the reason this was not significant factor in our 
original decision to use Linux over BSD was that, after sobering up, 
we never seriously thought the day would arrive when we would be
considered real challengers to Microsoft.  Even now, when we 
consider the relative size of our marketing budget to Microsoft's I think 
the folks at Wired, Infoworld, and PC Week, who are implying that 
Linux vendors are filling this role, must be smoking something.

But it sure is fun having our 15 minutes of fame.  :-)

Cheers,  Bob.

> We started our
> Linux business with reselling Yggdrasil in 93 and using it as a base
> for our linux consulting. Yggdrasil Plug and Play Linux development
> slowed down and we switched to Slackware that were gaining in
> popularity and it was also technically better. Then did the Slackware
> development slow down and we switched to Red Hat that were gaining in
> popularity and it was also technically better. We will probably switch
> again if Red Hat sags, I got a little worried by the bugs in 5.1 :-(
> Perhaps S.U.S.E or Debian will prove to be better in the near future?
> I dont know. The only thing binding us more then before is RPM since
> we have gained a fair bit of knowledge about it and is using it to
> build small custom distributions for built-in systems.
> But the point is realy that we dident notice any alternative when we
> choosed Linux and there were already a momentum when Red Hat started
> to be popular.

Red Hat Software, Inc.-----------------------------------------
Phone 919-547-0012 x227			Fax   919-547-0024
P.O. Box 13588				email:
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

Red Hat Software, Inc.-----------------------------------------
Phone 919-547-0012 x227			Fax   919-547-0024
P.O. Box 13588				email:
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709