In just the latest sign that Linux is finding absolutely no audience at all in the consumer market, Linux giant Red Hat revealed this week that it has cancelled plans to create a consumer version of its Linux distribution. Following in the footsteps of Novell and other commercial Linux vendors, Red Hat will instead continue to focus only on the enterprise.
"We have no plans to create a traditional desktop product for the consumer market in the foreseeable future," a Desktop Team posting to the Red Hat corporate blog reads. "The desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today's Linux desktops simply don't provide a practical alternative. Building a sustainable business around the Linux desktop is tough, and history is littered with example efforts that have either failed outright, are stalled or are run as charities."
For the next two years at least, Red Hat intends to focus on three core OS products: Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop, a "fully supported, commercial product;" Fedora, an unsupported free product; and Red Hat Global Desktop, which is aimed at emerging markets and will be sold only through resellers and channel partners. The company is also investigating virtualized and appliance-based Linux clients though these products have yet to even enter beta.
While Linux enthusiasts have invariably predicted each year we were finally witnessing "the year of the Linux desktop," real-world Linux market share has consistently proven otherwise. A recent trend in ultra-low-cost PCs, or ULCPCs, such as the popular Asus Eee PC, recently revived these rumors. But with Microsoft continuing support for Windows XP specifically and only for this market, most ULCPCs will invariably be sold with the OS that consumers really want: Windows. Asus CEO Jerry Shen, for example, predicted recently that most Eee PCs sold this year would run Windows, and not Linux. Last year, Windows wasn't even an option on these devices.