April 15, 2008 / 9:38 PM / 10 years ago

Red Hat may drop plans for Windows rival

BOSTON (Reuters) - Software maker Red Hat Inc may abandon plans to introduce software that would compete directly with Microsoft Corp’s Windows software for personal computers, a company executive said on Tuesday.

Last year the U.S.-based company announced plans for the software, a version of Linux that it said would offer many of the bells and whistles incorporated into Microsoft’s Windows operating systems for personal computers.

Red Hat Chief Technology Officer Brian Stevens said in an interview on Tuesday that the company has yet to determine whether the market is ripe for the product, originally slated to be introduced in developing countries in August 2007.

The software maker is in talks with potential partners in countries including India, where Red Hat hopes to sell the software to small and mid-sized businesses, he said. Those companies would sell and support the software.

“It’s one of those things. It’s worse to sell (just) 100,000 units than to sell zero -- because of the commitment you make,” he said. “Right now we are sizing the global opportunity.”

Red Hat is the world’s largest company that sells Linux software. While its programs are widely used on server computers, its products for PCs are generally only used on high-end machines such as workstations used by architects.

The new product, dubbed Red Hat Global Desktop Linux, was designed for PCs used by ordinary office workers and consumers.

Besides Microsoft’s Windows, Red Hat’s delayed PC software would also compete with other versions of the open-source Linux operating system, including Novell Inc’s Suse and Ubuntu, a widely used version of Linux developed by millionaire Mark Shuttleworth.

Company officials have previously blamed delays on the software’s development on trouble obtaining rights to distribute one of the components of the operating system - software for playing music and viewing videos.

In Tuesday’s interview, Stevens said that had turned out to be far more difficult than the company’s attorneys had originally calculated.

Obtaining those rights continues to delay the project, as do the business issues, he said.

Wayan Vota, an expert on introducing technology to developing countries who has helped implement such projects, said it would be a shame for Red Hat to abandon its efforts to get into the desktop PC market.

“I’d like to see another alternative to Windows,” Vota said.

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