That was then. Now is now! Novell recently acquired its own flavor of the GNU-Linux operating system, SUSE Linux. Unlike Unix in the 1990s, GNU-Linux is a PC operating system. Moreover, GNU-Linux is an OS that can and does run well on other than PC systems. GNU-Linux is ubiquitous!
Novell (SUSE) Linux, along with all the other flavors of GNU-Linux, is something that actually can take over the PC (x86) and desktop computer-landscape. Likely Linux will do just that. It's more a matter of when, than of if.
And Novell's entry into the GNU-Linux/FOSS landscape will help to make that happen sooner rather than later. The vast assortment of GNU-Linux/FOSS applications will substantially help Novell to lead the GNU-Linux OS to dominate the PC environment. Moreover, please do not forget that much free and open source software runs on both the GNU-Linux and MS Windows OSs -- Mac OS and Unix also. FOSS is ubiquitous too!
Please keep in mind that system administrators run operating systems. But computer users use applications. In order to achieve widespread adoption, it's more a matter of the applications available to run on an OS than a matter of the OS itself. And that, thoughtful reader, is where Microsoft and its Windows operating systems desktop have the advantage over the GNU-Linux OS desktop -- in the desktop applications for Windows -- for now.
Eventually the open source model, the Bazaar if you like, will produce more and better software for Novell Linux and the GNU-Linux platform than will Microsoft's Cathedral model produce for MS Windows. (Please see the Cathedral and Bazaar Note in the right-hand side bar.)
Novell Linux is for both the enterprise and desktop
Another reason that Novell will pull it off this time is that Novell Linux is both an enterprise grade Linux and a desktop Linux. Moreover, Novell has adopted and embraced the open source business/development model.
It seems that Novell might be harmoniously drawing on both the Cathedral and the Bazaar models.
(For more about the open source business/development model please see Martin Fink's book The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source, and Eric S. Raymond's book, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Links in the Resources section at the end of this article.)
Novell will take the lead
That likely will result in making Novell Linux the number one enterprise and desktop GNU-Linux distributor. It might be there already. Novell dominated the commercial Linux landscape at the LinuxWorld Exposition week before last.
Novell will push Red Hat out of its slot as the number one Linux distributor. It will eclipse IBM in the enterprise. And it will help to pull the GNU-Linux operating system installed-base ahead of the Microsoft operating system installed-base.
Please do not read into this that Novell will become another Microsoft monolith. Far from it. Rather, Novell will be a leading member of the GNU-Linux/FOSS community -- not the only member.
If Novell does what it says it is going to do, Novell will give more to the GNU-Linux/FOSS community than it takes. Through its leadership and its contributions, Novell will help many commercial and volunteer GNU-Linux/FOSS community companies and organizations to grow their products and markets.
Novell Linux and GNU-Linux need a better office-software suite
OpenOffice and StarOffice are good. But for many users, they just do not have the mojo to take on Microsoft Office, which does not run on Linux -- unless you use an intermediate application such as CrossOver Office or Win4Lin to run MS Office software on the GNU-Linux platform.
There are two Windows office suites that if ported to GNU-Linux could give Microsoft Office and thus Microsoft Windows a darn good run for the money. The best choice is PerfectOffice. Next best is the Lotus suite (IBM SmartSuite).
At last year's (January 2003) LinuxWorld Exposition in New York City I asked several IBM executives and spokespeople, including IBM's top Linux dog James Stallings and his people, if IBM would port its Lotus suite (SmartSuite) to Linux -- and if not if they would open-source the Lotus suite so that the GNU-Linux and Free and Open Source (FOSS) community could port it to Linux. The greedy self-centered IBM people refused to do either.
Moreover, it appeared to this writer that the only interest of the IBM people was in Linux for IBM's big bucks enterprise server business. Even though the thing that the Linux desktop needs more than anything else is a very good office suite -- the IBM people could not have cared less about porting or contributing their office suite, the Lotus SmartSuite, to the GNU-Linux operating system.
A copy of the above paragraphs about IBM were e-mailed to IBM General Manager James Stallings and IBM spokespeople Trink Guarino and Mike Fay in order to afford IBM the opportunity to respond. IBM, via Trink Guarino, Director of Communications, responded writing:
At LinuxWorld Expo week before last, I discussed the office suite situation with Novell CEO Jack Messman and its Vice-Chairman Chris Stone. Their responses were very open, frank, and favorable -- more about that further on. (Hint: Novell already is contributing to open source Linux office application development. And it might do even more than that.)
Novell is just so much a better company than is IBM. As you read on and read the interviews with Novell's Jack Messman and Chris Stone you will see an uncommonly responsible attitude of FOSS community spirit, involvement, and participation manifested by them in the discussions. They want to contribute to the FOSS community.
First let's look at some differences in Novell's role now and the role of the 1990s Novel that CEO Jack Messman articulated in an exclusive interview with MozillaQuest Magazine at LinuxWorld on 21 January 2004.
OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite for GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, MAC, MS-Windows, Unix, and more