Bonum Certa Men Certa

Open Letter to James Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat

Dear Mr. Whitehurst,

A reader has suggested that we issue a humble statement which expresses our feelings and articulates some premature fears.

We would like to welcome your arrival and we look forward to seeing you run Red Hat. We have full confidence in your ability given an unquestionably-impressive career history.

Over the years, the company which you will serve has earned its respect and approval of the community -- despite its focus on profit -- simply because it honoured its roots and remembered where it came from.

”Red Hat's moral grounds keep Oracle shy of Linux success prevent an exodus to RHEL clones such as CentOS.“Consumers approach products that are advocated to them by professionals, whose stamp of approval is often associated with the general consensus held by a community. You have the advantage. Red Hat not only makes a de facto product for servers; it is also viewed as a symbol of open source spirit, with key figures such as Ingo Molnar and Alan Cox. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the Debian GNU/Linux of those who rely on brand names and dedicated support. Red Hat's moral grounds keep Oracle shy of Linux success and prevent an exodus to RHEL clones such as CentOS.

Companies that turned against their suppliers have suffered from significant backlash. Linspire, for example, lost the community's respect when it signed a deal with Microsoft and then propagated Microsoft's threats onto competing Linux vendors. As a result, according to one industry expert who has watched Linspire and has helped them since their inception, the company's days are numbered.

Watch Novell's financial issues, public image issue, and its ill habit of manipulating financial figures to artificially create optimism. Some influential journalists have characterised Novell's deal with Microsoft as an "anti-Red Hat deal". Antagonism does not pay off, and it shows. We strongly urge you never to go down the same path.

When partnering with Microsoft, there is only one party that gains in the long term. Cisco's CEO, as well as many others, will gladly tell you this story. It is extremely hard to name companies that have benefited from a Microsoft pact, especially at Microsoft's expense. Remember that Microsoft perceives you, Red Hat and GNU/Linux, as its #1 threat.

Novell and Linspire have already been betrayed by Microsoft, just months after a seemingly-amicable agreement. We advise that you study these complications and convince yourself that, if anything, Red Hat gains here from the misery of others, so it mustn't join this club of misery.

”Red Hat needs its positive image in order to succeed and to truly satisfy people's needs.“Red Hat will continue to prosper and grow as long as it maintains the trust which it has earned from those who develop or promote GNU/Linux and free open source software. Red Hat needs its positive image in order to succeed and to truly satisfy people's needs. Red Hat needs only to ensure that it does not get fooled. If in doubt, it must listen to its developers (in-house and outside as well) rather than rely on the gut feeling of managers. Instincts are a risk. Fear and greed are among the greatest enemies.

Microsoft is likely to approach you personally, taking advantage of the fact that it has not confronted you about this issue before. We wish to make a simple and polite request that you issue a statement similar to the one from François Bancilhon, CEO of Mandriva. We wish to know that you are committed to open standards, openness of code, the interest of those who contribute code to your company and never the interest of a predatory rival that wants you prisoned by a software patent deal -- a deal that is not even valid in the vast majority of the world's nations, where software patents are not legal.

We have considerable faith in you and we hope you have faith in our assessment.

With wishes of happy holidays,

Yours Truly,

A group of free software advocates

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