|FROM ||From: "Inker, Evan"
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 11, 18 August 2003
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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 11, 18 August 2003
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 16:48:06 +0100
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Reply-To: "Inker, Evan"
List: New Yorker GNU Linux Scene
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SuSE's dangerous arrogance
In two recent interviews with popular technology publications, SuSE's CEO
Richard Seibt chose to demonstrate a high degree of arrogance. In response
to CRN's question about Windows to Linux migration, Seibt insisted that
"Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else." In another
interview for ZDNet, the suggestion that choice meant more than the two
alternatives met with another strong denial from Seibt: "If you ask [the
hardware vendors], they will tell you they want to support two
distributions." While in the context of the topics discussed these
statements sounded more like "wishful thinking", rather than solid facts,
they also represent a dangerous shift in the world of commercial Linux
distributions - from peaceful coexistence with other Linux vendors and
communities to a cut-throat, Microsoft-like way of competing, where facts
and truths are less important that profit margins and elimination of any
competing product at all cost.
First, let's get the facts straight. SuSE is nowhere near to being the
second most widely used Linux distribution in the world. Granted, there are
no reliable statistics to prove it, but of the many polls that occasionally
appear on popular web sites, SuSE rarely does well. Take this recent
Slashdot poll as a good example. Slashdot is of course an enormously popular
web site, which has the ability to generate tens of thousands of votes in a
few hours, but of the distributions presented in this one, SuSE, with 7% of
all votes, only succeeded in beating Conectiva and Linux From Scratch. Our
own page hit ranking, which is essentially a long-term poll of visitors'
interest, SuSE is well behind Red Hat, Mandrake, Gentoo and Debian, and only
very slightly above Slackware. Moreover, German visitors browsing
DistroWatch visit the Mandrake and Red Hat pages more often than the SuSE
page. Another interesting indication of SuSE's acceptance came to light
earlier this year when we were looking for a dedicated server hosting
DistroWatch. While about 95% of web hosting companies offer Red Hat as the
only Linux choice and the remaining 5% also offer Debian and/or Slackware,
of the 200 or so hosting companies we looked at, none offered SuSE as a
choice of OS.
SuSE has several other things going against it. Firstly, there is little
doubt that SuSE's reluctance to provide ISO images for download limits its
exposure. Worse, SuSE is very selective about its markets and although it is
well accepted in large parts of Europe and North America, there is the vast
Asian continent where SuSE is virtually unknown. Secondly, many US-based
journalists seem to be of the opinion that SuSE is a dominant distribution
in Europe, while ignoring substantial parts of the old continent, such as
the Spanish provinces of Extremadura and Andalusia, which have exclusively
deployed Debian-based LinEx in all of their public administration offices as
well as schools. A similar effort is under way in Norway with Skolelinux,
which is also Debian-based. This point is not to be underestimated - we are
not talking about a few dozens of computers in companies that can afford the
expensive SuSE Desktop licenses - we are talking about tens, if not hundreds
of thousands of Debian-based systems, with no other operating system on
them! Now, this is the true success story, which SuSE will not match in
hundred years, Mr Seibt!
Thirdly, SuSE's refusal to include general public in its beta testing is
another sore point. If you have ever experienced the spirit on Red Hat's and
Mandrake's mailing lists during their respective beta testing periods, than
you know the feeling - being part of the process, talking to the developers,
seeing the bugs fixed in front of your eyes - all these experiences provide
not only valuable lessons for all who take part, they also create an
emotional attachment to the distribution one helped to test and debug. A
distribution is not just a box with media and manuals in it, it is a
process. The regular distribution flame wars on public forums are prove that
we do get attached to a our favourite operating system.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that the wide acceptance of Linux will
undermine the purity of the original ideals that have initiated its
development. Yes, profits are important. Yes, there should be companies that
benefit from Linux so that they can contribute to its continued prosperity.
But is it necessary to resort to dirty tricks and outright lies? Is
arrogance of top executives of commercial Linux companies slowly becoming
the order of the day? I certainly hope not, Mr Seibt.
Evan M. Inker (New York) x. 4615
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