Red Hat exec points finger at Microsoft

Just before Microsoft's remedy hearing wrapped up for the week, an executive from Red Hat testified that he believed Linux's inability to grab a substantial portion of the desktop operating system market could be traced back to Microsoft's influence over PC makers.

Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer of Linux supplier Red Hat and a witness for the litigating states, told of meetings he had with various PC makers, including Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp., to "extoll Linux" and encourage the PC makers to include the Windows competitor with their computers. Convincing PC makers to deliver their software to end users is key to the success of desktop operating system makers, since customers tend to stick with the OS that their computer is delivered with.

Whenever Tiemann would mention GNOME -- Linux's graphical user interface for desktop PCs -- during these meetings with hardware vendors, he noticed a change, he said. "I observed the tone of the discussions changed," Tiemann said, adding that it was like a skunk had walked into the room.

"Based on my experience (I concluded that) the topic of Red Hat as a desktop operating system is essentially a taboo topic among OEMs (original equipment manufacturer)," Tiemann said.

He added that he believed the PC makers were afraid to offer a non-Windows operating system on their desktop PCs for fear of retaliation from Microsoft, but Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly struck that addition from the record since it was a conclusion Tiemann drew and was not first-hand knowledge.

While a number of hardware vendors have decided to use Red Hat Linux on their servers, only Dell agreed to offer customers the Windows competitor on desktops. But even that arrangement didn't last long; the deal was struck in June of 2000 for Dell to sell PCs and notebooks with Red Hat's Linux over its Web site, but by August of 2001 the company had stopped offering these products, citing poor customer demand.

The hearing, during which Microsoft and nine states plus the District of Columbia, which have not settled the antitrust suit with Microsoft, present their remedies to the judge, will resume on Monday.

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