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Red Hat jabs at Microsoft plan

Open-source software pioneer Red Hat, Inc., has slipped a fly into the ointment of the proposed settlement of the class-action lawsuit against Microsoft. On the same day last week that the Redmond software maker announced that it had agreed to settle 100-plus lawsuits by supplying Windows-based PCs and software to thousands of the country's poorest schools, Red Hat outlined plans to provide open-source software to every school district in the US, free of charge.

The Linux distributor encouraged Microsoft to spend the value of its proposed software contribution on more hardware, leaving the schools free of its proprietary OS. Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik damned the Redmond software maker's potentially self-serving solution with faint praise.

"While we applaud Microsoft for raising the idea of helping poorer schools (to offset) their conviction for monopolistic practices, we do not think that the remedy should be a mechanism by which Microsoft can further extend its monopoly," Szulik said in a statement. He maintained that his plans provide school districts with a software choice, and can "enable Microsoft to provide many more computers to these schools." And in a jab at Microsoft, Szulik said his plan will help school districts avoid rewarding "a monopolist by extending the monopoly. It's now up to Microsoft to demonstrate that they are truly serious about helping our schools."

According to Red Hat, redirecting Microsoft's money from its own software to third-party hardware will boost the the number of computers installed in schools from 200,000 to more than a million, and would increase the number of systems per school from approximately 14 to at least 70.

The Red Hat offer calls for distributing the Red Hat Linux OS implementation, unspecified office applications, and "associated capabilities." The company also offered to provide online support for its software. And while the Microsoft proposal called for schools to begin paying to renew licenses and upgrade software after five years, the Red Hat offer imposed no time limit.

Both announcements were made just two days before the Thanksgiving holiday. Szulik said that he had not yet discussed his company's alternative solution with Microsoft. Microsoft did not return phone calls for comment before press time.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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