Is Red Hat trading it in for a Pilot's Cap?

New Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst

Sometimes you wonder "what were they thinking?" Red Hat's new CEO, Jim Whitehurst comes from Delta Airlines (five most recent years experience), "a petrochemical company, a manufacturing company, a trading company, a logistics company, a bank..." according to Michael Tiemann, the unintended defense man for Whitehurst's hiring into Red Hat's CEO job.

I'm a very big Red Hat fan, a company who has been making good numbers, most recently with a 28% increase in revenues during the 3rd quarter. (Matt Asay has a good summary on Red Hat's performance.)

But does Red Hat need a job hopping corporate type COO/CEO, or somebody who understands the software product business and the uniqueness of open source. Not to mention, open source software with all the software patent and IP protection wrangling that's sure to boil over in the years to come.

Is Jim Whitehurst here to negotiate a Novell-like deal between Microsoft and Red Hat? Is Jim here to put the smackdown on Novell or Oracle?

My guess is that Whitehurst was a quick solution to Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik's need to step down due to family medical reasons. Maybe the RH board didn't want the CEO spot filled with a temporary replacement,or remain open too long. It's hard to say for sure.

I know that Matt Asay has said on his blog he is "willing to believe" but I have to say that I'm still perplexed and skeptical. No one's given a reasonable, more less compelling, explanation why Whitehurst is the right CEO to lead Red Hat's battle to increase market share of RH Linux.

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