A better idea
When was the last time Sun, DEC, HP, SGI, et. al., all ran a single version of *nix? I sense an end to the maddness of the *nix wars, and about time too.
Linux has momentum in its favor. The best thing that Sun could do is not to make Solaris free of charge, but to share code with the community for those things that Solaris currently does better than Linux, to improve Linux and increase its performance on their hardware.
Applications developers are tired and frustrated with supporting umpty-ump variants of *nix and would love to support a single version that will run well on a wide variety of hardware. Applications translate into hardwre sales.
If Sun was to take a small percentage of the development staff working on Solaris and assign it to work on Linux development, and if SGI, DEC, HP, Amdahl, IBM, and all of the other hardware vendors that are begining to support Linux, the impact would be huge.
My suggestion would be for them to get together and lease some office space in Palo Alto for their Linux developers. Set up a dozen cubicles for the general Linux community developers to drop in and work. Set up a first class testing lab where Linux developers can test their software on a variety of equipment. Use some of their ample CPU power and network bandwidth to host CVS trees.
Much of the damage done by the *nix wars can be undone with a little effort. We cannot turn back the clock, but we can stop the continuing divisions and increase the pace of development for both systems and applications code.
A pipe dream? Perhaps. But when you consider that this would require a fraction of 1% from the development budgets of each company involved, the cost involved is almost trivial. The potential benefit is enormous.
Just my two bits ...
re: Open letter to Red Hat
There are many areas in which I agree and many in which I disagree. There is one area in which I would like to comment, right now and that is item #5 re RPMs.
The RPM format is a good one, but a layer is really needed above that, or RPM needs to be extended to match the functionality of the Debian .deb package functions.
If a user selects to install an application package from either CD or network and there are package dependencies that are not currently met, the user should be presented with a y/n dialog to install all required packages in addition to the one requested, rather than a simple failure message. If the user is attempting to install the application from a packaged CD set, they should be prompted to insert the relavent CD(s) and the requisite packages should be installed.
Please note that this is a good way to convince users to purchase the "official" CDs, since the cheap CD vendors often screw up CD order information.
I would also add that you might find a market in selling a full CD set without the printed docs, for the experienced folks that want a full distribution without paying for the cost or shipping of the intro manual.
I also like the subscription suggestions, but understand that it could be difficult to make a quarterly schedule. On the other hand, this is what your corporate customers will be demanding....
I completely disagree that Red Hat should get into the applications arena, at least at present. The aps are coming. Support wine and speed them up, perhaps. This is a dangerous ground, since there are already mainstream aps vendors that need support, such as Corel and Star/Sun.
Other than improving the installation process, as mentioned earlier, I think that the best way that RH can leverage its new wealth is to help protect Linux against all of the lawsuits that are sure to come for violation of BS software patents. I would hope that Red Hat could also call on Oracle, IBM, HP, SGI, and Compaq to help in the legal defense of these issues that were spelled out in the "Halloween Documents".
I'll add one one item. Help bring all Unix variants together. Give a little and gain a lot.