TITLE Media Watch: Coverage of SuSE, Red Hat support announcements
by Leonard Richardson
Published on segfault.org 11/19/1998
In trade press coverage of recent announcements by Red Hat and SuSE, one point has been driven home time and time again: without an enterprise-class support system, Linux can never hope to gain a user base of millions. Well, Linux can never hope to make inroads into large corporations. Okay, then, uh, Linux can never hope to attract the attention of large commercial software developers.
I'll start over.
In trade press coverage of recent announcements by Red Hat and SuSE, one point has been driven home time and time again: without a system by which Linux distributors can accept large sums of money from IT departments in return for their answering questions about Ethernet card configuration, Linux can never hope to reach some fuzzily-defined goal of legitimacy which hasn't happened yet.
Onlookers who had actually read the relevant press releases were puzzled, as this sort of system was the very thing being announced by Red Hat and SuSE.
"Unless Linux abandons the unworkable 'peer help' model of tech support, and establishes a reliable call desk staffed by trained professionals (yes, like the dreaded Microsoft), announcements such as Red Hat's latest will do little good. Linux can never hope to become a viable option for corporate America without enterprise-wide, '24 x 7' support products." This from ZDNet's Paul Moxie, in Whither Linux?: Red Hat Announces Support, But What About Support? The Red Hat announcement, which the article is purportedly about, reads in part: "Red Hat is introducing new corporate support products that... provide '24 x 7' support for enterprise-wide, mission-critical Red Hat Linux systems."
"We're operating under the assumption that this is the result of an honest misunderstanding," Red Hat spokesdroid Stephan Nile told Segfault.org. "It's possible that an older ZDNet article was recycled when a new one was to have been published."
But how to explain the similar stories on TechWeb and C|net's news.com? When questioned, SuSE officials took the diplomatic approach as well. "We believe that the person who wrote the [TechWeb] article did not carefully read our press release," said one.
"Of course I read the press release!", retorted Techweb columnist Gavin Shinbone, author of Red Hat, SuSE to Support-Needers: Drop Dead!. "'SuSE, Inc. today announced the launch of the SuSE Linux Corporate Support Program, blah blah blah.' But that doesn't mean a thing without some kind of corporate support program. Besides which, Linux has no word processor. Windows 2000 has a great word processor, and it's here now."
What makes so many presumably competent reporters unable to correctly analyze announcements from Linux vendors, and indeed any kind of Linux-related development whatever? Perhaps this strange behavior is a result of the pervading cynicism that surrounds analysis of any press release, combined with the success of the various Linux FUD memes. Whatever it is, major Linux vendors vow to fight until the message gets through.
"In our next support-related press release, we plan to experiment with capital letters and boldface, using phrases like NOW THERE IS ENTERPRISE-LEVEL SUPPORT FOR LINUX and PAID, PROFESSIONAL LINUX SUPPORT to sort of grab reporters' attention and get them used to the idea.", says Nile. "We experimented with using lots of exclamation marks, but it was starting to look like spam mail."