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6 February, 2004

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MozillaQuest OpEd/Analysis

Novell Linux Dominates LinuxWorld 2004 -- Part 2:

Deja Novell All Over Again

Mike Angelo -- 6 February 2004 (C) -- Page 3

To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

Jack Messman articulates differences between Novell then and now

In an exclusive interview/discussion conducted at the LinuxWorld Exposition on 21 January 2004, MozillaQuest Magazine asked Novell CEO, Jack Messman if Novell's recent operating system and desktop application acquisitions were a repeat of Novell's OS and applications acquisitions of the 1990s. Is Novell going after Microsoft again? Will Novell be able to pull it off this time?

As you read through this discussion, please notice there are some dramatic differences between the approach in growing Novell that Jack Messman and Novell are taking now and the approach that Ray Norda, a former Novell Board Chairman, and Novell took in the 1990s. We believe that these differences in approaches to growing Novell indicate that Novell will be successful this time around.

Also, some reasons we believe Novell will succeed now are set forth and discussed in the first article of this series, Novell Linux Dominates LinuxWorld 2004: Overview. So, to see additional reasons that we believe Novell will be successful now, please see that article.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Back in the 90s, you had Unix, DR DOS, WordPerfect, and everything else. One thing, how do you -- I have been thinking about doing an article -- something like Deja vu Novell all over again -- do you see what you are doing now, acquiring Linux and those things, as something like what Novell was doing in the '90s?

Jack Messman: Well, I think in those days Ray Norda was trying to take Microsoft on every way he could. He bought WordPerfect to take them on in the Word level. He bought QuatroPro. As part of the WordPerfect deal we got GroupWise to take them on in the collaboration software area. We got DR DOS to take them on at the operating system level. We bought Unix because we thought that was going to be a way to get at them.

Jack Messman: And I think the mistake he made was -- he should have been worried about the customer and not about taking on Microsoft. And I think that is the big difference between what we are doing today and what they were doing then. I think that Novell is much more of a marketing driven company today than what the old Novell was. They were great engineers. In fact, over the years we created some great products that there were no markets for.

Jack Messman: So, today, we make sure that anything we work on is customer driven, market driven -- we see a need. Not having engineers just develop something, and throw it over the wall to marketing.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Well, in essence you are taking on Microsoft in a different way. The way Ray was doing it was "I am going to get you Microsoft".

Jack Messman: Yah.

MozillaQuest Magazine: You are doing it because you are building a suite of an operating system and applications and everything else. Essentially, doesn't that put you in competition with Microsoft all over again?

Jack Messman: Let's see. Ray did it to take on Microsoft. We are doing it to take on the responsibility of solving the customer's problems.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Right. Which should be more productive.

Jack Messman: We are not taking on Microsoft. We don't see it that way. We are growing enterprise -- Linux at the enterprise. So if Microsoft happens to be in there -- that's fine but we are going to work on the customer.

The approach Novell and Jack Messman are taking now, to acquire and to develop for the customer and for the market, appears to be tremendously more sound than the old Novell and Ray Norda 1990s approach of acquiring and developing to stomp all over Microsoft, which failed.

Moreover, Jack Messman's acquire and develop for the customer and for the market approach is quite likely to end up stomping all over Microsoft -- but as a result of the acquire and develop for the customer strategy rather than as the purpose of the acquire and develop strategy.

Office Software for Novell Linux and GNU-Linux

That led into our discussion about the GNU-Linux desktop and the need for a better office-applications suite for GNU-Linux. OpenOffice, which has a GNU-Linux version, is good. However, for many users OpenOffice is not a replacement for Microsoft Office. For more about that, please see our story OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite, and the OpenOffice Writer, Calc Contact Manager, and Calc Budget tutorials.

We believe that in order for Novell Linux and the GNU-Linux operating system to pull ahead of Microsoft Windows in user base, Novell Linux and GNU-Linux need a better office-applications suite than what is provided by OpenOffice or StarOffice, a commercial version of OpenOffice.

MozillaQuest Magazine: The thing that Linux really needs is an office suite. That's the thing that Linux never seems to have.

Jack Messman: Right.

Back in the 1990s the one area in which Novell surpassed Microsoft was in the office-software arena. Novell then had WordPerfect, QuatroPro, and had innovated the fully-integrated office suite, PerfectOffice.

Picking up our LinuxWorld discussion with Jack Messman:

Jack Messman: We are not taking on Microsoft. We don't see it that way. We are growing enterprise -- Linux at the enterprise. So if Microsoft happens to be in there -- that's fine but we are going to work on the customer.

MozillaQuest Magazine: So, in terms of customer, I guess one thing that is missing is the old WordPerfect suite, office suite -- ah -- [Jack chuckles] WordPerfect, the way Novell had it when they owned it, -- in my opinion it was better than the current Microsoft Word. That was ten years ago.

Jack Messman: Everybody tells me that.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Why don't you all get WordPerfect back? And the WordPerfect suite?

Jack Messman: Hadn't thought about that. The question is whether or not we want to be in that business or not. Lot of open source products for that -- OpenOffice --

MozillaQuest Magazine: Well, or a -- try to get OpenOffice up to -- 'cause you were saying you were going to contribute back --

Jack Messman: Yah --

MozillaQuest Magazine: and give Open Source -- Or give OpenOffice -- Or WordPerfect the original WordPerfect for Linux --

Jack Messman: Yah, Corel owns it.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Yah, -- If you got the software back -- If you are talking about complete customer solutions --

Jack Messman: Right.

MozillaQuest Magazine: You talk about the enterprise -- everybody in the enterprise is using some kind of word processor.

Jack Messman: Good idea, we'll think about it. I haven't even looked to see what the market CAP of Corel is. Probably pretty low, isn't it?

MozillaQuest Magazine: You probably could buy the whole company.

Jack Messman: So, your idea would be we would buy it and contribute it back to the Open Source community.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Either not contribute but just have all that stuff for something you could sell or contribute back to the open source community -- What I thought that was very interesting is this thing you were talking about -- The marriage between open source and proprietary and to some degree where you're contributing back the code is open --

Jack Messman: What we do is typically we develop the code. Contribute it to the Open Source community. If you are not a geek -- it's up to you. So, we then do a lot of work to make that easy to use -- put manuals around it -- put training around it -- we do the upgrades on a regular basis and we will charge you for that. So, while the code is free what you are paying for is the maintenance and support. That's the new model.

In our discussions with Eric S. Raymond about this article, we mentioned this paragraph to him. He commented: This is the future of software. Novell gets it, IBM gets it, and the Linux-adoption trend curves show that an increasing number of IT managers get it too.


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