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The end of Red Hat's silent period

Red Hat Software's SEC-mandated silent period ended September 6. They are now able, once again, to talk about what they are up to. LWN talked for a few minutes with Donnie Barnes about where Red Hat is going in the near future.

Regarding the 6.1 release, Donnie could tell us "almost nothing" beyond what is in the Lorax announcement. Red Hat is adamant about not pre-announcing release dates, and they are not changing that policy now. Clearly, the recent announcement of the "Lorax" beta release indicates that 6.1 is not too far away.

We asked whether they felt that 6.1 had been too long in coming, given that there are now more than 140MB of updates for 6.0. Donnie tells us that Red Hat feels "very comfortable" with the current release frequency. Most of the updates are not needed for most users, so the sheer bulk of them is not as bad as it may seem. There appear to be no plans to make more frequent releases in the future.

Regarding Linux-Mandrake and other "value-added" distributions: Red Hat claims to be quite happy to see these distributions out there and successful. Their purpose is to "grow the open source pie as a whole," and the value-added distributions are a part of that. Red Hat is able to incorporate enhancements from distributions like Linux-Mandrake when it is worthwhile. They have, for example, taken some of the work that MandrakeSoft put into their KDE setup and folded it into Red Hat.

Is Red Hat happy with the results of the community stock offering, despite the problems and grief they took as a result? The answer seems to be an unqualified "yes." Red Hat sent mail to about 5,000 developers offering them the opportunity to take part in the offering. About 1300 of them indicated an interest in participating, and, in the end, 1150 of them became Red Hat stockholders. Thus, despite all the problems that people had, almost all of the interested people were able to get their stock.

A number of lessons were learned in the process, by both Red Hat and the financial community. The next company to go public should have a much easier time of it, after having seen the pitfalls that Red Hat encountered. Red Hat would have liked to see things go more easily, but "somebody had to be first," and they were happy to take that role.

What will Red Hat be doing with the proceeds of their stock offering? They will be working toward scaling their business in every way. That will include opening more offices (such as the recently-announced Japanese office) and possibly the acquisition of other Linux-related companies. As is the nature of those sorts of moves, not much can be said about them until they are complete and the announcement can be made.

Has becoming a public company changed things at Red Hat? For the most part no. There are some new policies and procedures in place. More people pay attention when the name "Red Hat" is mentioned. And the expectations in general are higher - if anything, they are working harder now than before the offering. Red Hat remains committed to being a completely open-source company, and does not expect the pressures of being a public corporation to change that.

We thank Donnie Barnes for taking the time to talk with us today.


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