By any measure of the term, this is proprietary lock-in, albeit proprietary lock-in that does not involve the traditional attainment through source code intellectual property, i.e., proprietary software. In a way, Red Hat has learned from the lessons of Dell’s success: It has come up with a clever new business model to match the commodity market in which it competes—operating systems used to be sold as products in boxes or bundled with other products, and Red Hat realized this approach would not be profitable in the new operating system market Linux was helping to create; so, it found a new way to sell its operating system products that was.
However, in a very real way, Red Hat’s model is also dangerously close to the model employed by the UNIX vendors, which had catastrophic consequences. It is attempting to decommoditize the Linux platform, not through proprietary extensions in the form of software, but through a redefinition of the Linux platform to its own ends and the restriction of how that platform can be used and redistributed. Sure, the source code to its platform is still freely redistributable, but with the shift of proprietary position away from source code intellectual property and to third party relationships and subscription agreements, the rules of the game have changed dramatically here as well.