RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Out of the red and in to the black?

“The collaborative process produces a better software product, and our results after 14 quarters as a publicly traded company gives us confidence for the future,” Chief Executive Officer Matthew Szulik said proudly as Red Hat announced its quarterly earnings Tuesday.

The young Red Hat troops (average age, 28) could have justified popping a bottle of bubbly or two at their new Centennial Campus headquarters. They announced their first quarterly profit ($305,000), and company officials, led by Szulik, touted better times ahead. But don’t expect them to change the name to Black Hat — or to stand still. In fact, Suzlik said in a conference call that he is determined to see the Hatters improve their gross margins higher than the current 66 percent.

For a moment, however, Red Hat fans and critics could read the following headlines on the Net this morning:

“Red Hat moves into the black”

“Red Hat posts net profit, business revenue grows”

“Red Hat records first profit”

“Red Hat turns slight profit”

Its stock actually lost a few cents in trading after hours, down to $6.33. And that’s a far cry from the heady days of its IPO and the Net bubble when the stock was well north of $100. But the latest price also marks a big rebound from its recent low of 3 bucks and change.

And good news for Red Hat — a home-grown Triangle company — is good news for a region that has taken more than its share of battering in the past turbulent two years.

More growth?

Looking ahead, Red Hat plans to make acquisitions, including on the security front. And that shouldn’t come as any surprise, given the world’s heightened anxiety in the wake of 9-11-01 and ever increasing cyber attacks from hackers, worms and other havoc-creating nitwits.

The Linux firm’s move earlier this year to embrace Enterprise Servers also seems to be paying off with subscriptions more than doubling to 12,000. Enterprise revenues now account for 93 percent of Red Hat’s revenues (other revenues dropped substantially), and the Hatters forecast overall revenues will jump to as much as $27.5 million to close the fiscal year in February. Revenues hit $24.3 million in the most recent quarter vs. $21.3 million in the previous quarter and 21 percent ahead of the same time period a year ago.

Not bad, considering the tough economic climate, analysts say.

And the $1 million positive cash flow was a jump of 74 percent. Red Hat sees that number hitting between $1.3 million and $2.5 million this quarter.

Just a year ago, Red Hat was bleeding $15 million.

Red Hat also has struck deals with major firms such as Oracle, IBM and Hewlett Packard which not only helped the bottom line but also bolstered the image of Linux and Red Hat.

Linux and Red Hat backers also got a boost recently from a Meta Group forecast that Linux will be running on 45 percent of new servers in 2006 or 2007. Much of that market share gain will come at the expense of Microsoft, Meta Group predicted.

But some people aren’t convinced Linux growth equals success for Red Hat. A reading of chat conversations shows plenty of disdain remains for the Hatters among Linux fans.

For a moment, however, tip your hat to Szulik and company.

Black ink beats red ink any day.

The verdict is in —

The Russian software company charged with violating the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act escaped with a “not guilty” verdict in the closely watched trial on Tuesday. ElcomSoft had been charged with creating and then selling a software solution to undo protections on an eBook software from Adobe. The jury said ElcomSoft’s program was illegal but decided on the not guilty verdict because it didn’t believe the company “didn’t mean to violate the law,” according to cNet.

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.