Building on a Linux brand

Red Hat is a perfect example of how open source firms need to trade on their reputation, not just their product.

Red Hat survives and thrives on its reputation and its brand, the quality of the software and services it provides and the strength of its bonds with the user and developer communities from which it sprang.

Unlike traditional software companies anyone can replicate Red Hat software, as Oracle has tried to prove with its "Unbreakable Linux", but any company that does so has to replicate Red Hat's reputation in its specialised corner of the market.

And as yet, none have done so, even when offering discounts for Red Hat customers to move.

Red Hat has been a lucky company with a knack of being in the right place at the right time, epitomised by its transition through a successful IPO from being the foremost community based Linux of the nineties to the most successful provider of open source to the corporate world during the last decade.

The interesting prospect for Linux users during the next decade will be to see if Ubuntu can perform a similar trick, moving from its current position as the most popular Linux on the street to self-sufficiency in the market place.

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