Tony, author of the Lockergnome Penguin Shell newsletter recently made some comments about Red Hat’s corporate strategy. Quoting this article, he infers that Red Hat is trying to drive the non paying customers away.
There is another interpretation of the article, which I think is closer to the truth. Right now, you either download or pay for the basic version of Red Hat, or you pay a lot of money for Advanced Server. There is no middle ground. By producing some better mid range products, Red Hat can shift some people from the free versions to the newer products.
For those of us that don’t need Advanced Server, there are some features that we’d like out of Personal/Professional, namely support. I’m not going to pay $2500/year/box for support. So far, I (well, my work) has ponied up $60/year/box for Red Hat Network. For that, we get priority access to patches, the great web GUI, and a way to show our appreciation to Red Hat. For my boxes at home, I take the cheap road out, and either use the free demo licence that comes with installation, or just manage packages with something else like Red Carpet or AutoRPM.
There is a huge market for Red Hat between the home user, and the enterprise Advanced Server. All they’re trying to do is get into that market.
Sure, the public “Demo” server is swamped when a patch comes out. For that matter, when a new kernel or version of Red Hat comes out, most mirrors are pretty busy too. If I need a patch in a hurry, I know I can always get it off a mirror (who themselves have a separate way to get the patches).
I like and use Red Hat because they “Get it”. They build a quality product, and IMHO, do a very good job of balancing new features software vs stability. They successfully combine Open Source and business. Despite what people say, they still remember their roots, and, in my eyes, have not yet done anything to try and extort money out of the home user.