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Windows deprived Linux of marketshare, Red Hat executive claims

An executive from Red Hat has claimed that 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, the chief technology officer of Red Hat and a witness for the nine US states and the District of Columbia at the Microsoft antitrust hearing, told the court of meetings he had with various PC makers, including Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, to "extoll Linux" and encourage the PC makers to put the software on their computers.

Customers tend to stick with the OS that their computers are delivered with.

Tiemann claimed that whenever he mentioned Gnome - Linux's graphical user interface for desktop PCs - during these meetings, there was a reaction.

"I observed the tone of the discussions changed," Tiemann said, adding that it was as if 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 original equipment manufacturers," Tiemann said.

He added that he believed the PC makers were afraid to offer a non-Windows OS on their desktop PCs for fear of retaliation from Microsoft, but Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly struck that addition from the record since it was Tiemann's own conclusion 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 it on desktops.

But even that arrangement did not last long. The deal was struck in June 2000 for Dell to sell PCs and notebooks with Red Hat's Linux over its Web site, but by August 2001 the company had stopped offering these products, citing poor customer demand.

The hearing will resume on Monday.

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