I probably overreacted to Matthew Szulik's resignation as Red Hat's CEO. For me it's not just a business decision that Red Hat made. Matthew has been a friend and a mentor to me for several years. I've sat in his office on several occasions. I respect him deeply and can't imagine the open-source business community without his fire and intelligence.
Both are on display in a blog entry he just published. The voice comes across as quintessentially Matthew:
Through our actions, the open source community and the people of Red Hat are defining a modern economic relationship between developer and customer. Collaboration. Transparency and value delivered. Our customers and marketplace are responding as evidenced by our financials and strong market potential. What was once considered a joke in 1998, no longer is. Today governments and industry are responding to the values and practices of open source as evidenced by their support of OLPC and the broad open source education initiatives in India, South America and parts of Africa.
Throughout my tenure, it was my dream, that even in the face of the most difficult odds and vicious competition, we, the people of Red Hat could make an enormous and positive improvement in the lives of others. I thank the people of Red Hat. I will always be grateful for the sacrifices, contributions and camaraderie.
You'd never hear Ron Hovsepian talk like that. Nor would this come from the mouth of Paul Otellini or Larry Ellison. You might from Mark Shuttleworth or Marten Mickos, however, and that's the difference between an open-source CEO and a proprietary software CEO. Passion. Passion for more than just dollars and cents. Passion for freedom and value and innovation.
I'm not saying that these others aren't great CEOs. I'm simply saying that they aren't open-source CEOs. They aren't Matthew Szulik.
Matthew has done the right thing, supporting his family. But I admit that I will feel a profound void in his absence.