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12 November, 2005
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MozillaQuest Magazine Op-ED

Is It Deja Deja Novell All Over Again, Again?

Ximian/GNOME v SUSE/KDE at Novell

. . . Hubert Mantel is not at all happy with the directions in which Novell has taken SUSE Linux since Novell acquired SUSE. And is it coincidence that Hubert Mantel leaves Novell/SUSE just a few days after Ronald Hovsepian's promotion to Novell President and COO -- particularly when that promotion puts Ronald Hovsepian in charge of product development and marketing at Novell/SUSE?

Mike Angelo -- 12 November 2005 (C) -- Page 2

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About the Author

Mike Angelo has written hundreds of published newspaper and magazine computer and technology articles. He has more than 40 years experience using solid-state, digital computers.

Mike has written lots of computer programs in assembly, BASIC, FORTRAN, machine, and several other languages -- on a variety of mainframe and desktop machines. He has designed and built some special purpose computers, and does PC upgrading and building. Mike also creates, designs, and maintains Web sites.

In 1993, Mike Angelo started writing a print newspaper computer column, About Computers. He has written articles for top-tier magazines including Byte, Computer Buyer's Guide & Handbook, DOS World, I-Way, Laptop Buyer's Guide & Handbook, Linux Journal, Maximize, MozillaQuest Magazine, PC Novice, and PC Today.

Despite Mike Angelo's extensive computer experience he has a real life and uses computers as tools. Therefore, he approaches his computer writing from the user's interest and point of view.

SUSE and Ximian Alums in Novel Top Management

Two current Novell executives came to Novell via the SUSE and Ximian acquisitions.

David Patrick is Vice President and General Manager for Linux, Open Source Platforms and Services Group at Novell. Patrick joined Novell in 2003 as part of the acquisition of Ximian, where he was President and CEO. (Novel Executive Biographies. Link in Resources section.)

Markus Rex now is Chief Technology Officer for Linux, Open Source Platforms and Services Group at Novell. Rex joined Novell in February 2004 with the acquisition of SUSE LINUX . . . [where] he served as vice president of Research and Development. (Novel Executive Biographies. Link in Resources section.

There are other alums of the SUSE and Ximian acquisitions who hold and/or held management positions at Novel. However, they are not listed on the Novel Executive Biographies Web page.

Dissent -- SUSE's Hubert Mantel Resigns

However, that seems at odds with Hubert Mantel's resignation from Novell/SUSE.

It appears that Hubert Mantel posted his resignation from Novell/SUSE announcement to the suse-beta-e mailing list. So far, we have not been able to obtain a copy of Hubert Mantel's resignation announcement.

We asked the Novell people for a copy of Hubert Mantel's resignation announcement. They refused to provide us with a copy. Replying for Novell, Kevan Barney wrote: As for Mantel's resignation letter, it's an employee communication and isn't ours to hand out, I'm afraid.

However, we have found the following lines attributed to that announcement at many places on the Internet including published articles, forum posts, and IRC (Internet Relay Chat) discussions. We asked the Novell people about these lines. They have not denied their authenticity.

  • Too late for me. I just decided to leave Suse/Novell.
  • This is no longer the company I founded 13 years ago.
  • I have been the maintainer of the Suse kernel for more than a decade now.
  • I'm very confident the Novell management will find a competent successor very quickly. After all, there are lots of extremely skilled people over there in the Ximian division.

Taken together, these paragraphs seem to indicate that Hubert Mantel is not at all happy with the directions in which Novell has taken SUSE Linux since Novell acquired SUSE. And is it coincidence that Hubert Mantel leaves Novell/SUSE just a few days after Ronald Hovsepian's promotion to Novell President and COO -- particularly when that promotion puts Ronald Hovsepian in charge of product development and marketing at Novell/SUSE?

The kernel maintainer of a Linux distribution is one of the most important, if not the most important, developer in that distribution's technical environment.

To us, that translates to Hubert Mantel's resignation as an important loss to the SUSE Linux distribution and to Novell. Moreover, as the SUSE Linux founder and its kernel maintainer, Hubert Mantel's statement that This is no longer the company I founded 13 years ago. is not to be taken lightly -- not at all lightly.

Ximian/GNOME v SUSE/KDE at Novell

Hubert Mantel's reference to extremely skilled people over there in the Ximian division appears to be serious sarcasm. And it seems to be indicative of conflict between the Ximian/GNOME and SUSE/KDE forces within Novell. Such conflict is not a very healthy sign. (Despite the sarcasm, there are some very competent people on the Ximian side of the Novell house.)

If there is a flaw in Jack Messman's plans for Linux and FOSS at Novell, it could be trying to bring two competitive and independent developer communities, GNOME (GNU Object Model Environment) and KDE (K Desktop Environment), under the same corporate umbrella. In the Novell situation, Ximian is, in effect, the corporate sponsor and/or extension of GNOME. And SUSE has been a KDE-centric GNU-Linux distribution that provides substantial support to the KDE community.

Add to that mix Kurt Pfeifle's opinion piece, Why Is Novell Chopping Its SUSE Linux Workstation and Desktop Product Line?, which appeared on LinuxToday on 4 November 2005 and obviously suggests that Novell is dumping SUSE Linux. (Link in the Resources section at the end of this article on page 3.)

Novell's Response

The Novell people deny that Novell is dumping either SUSE Linux or the KDE desktop suite.

Bruce Lowry told MozillaQuest Magazine in our phone conversation Thursday that:

(1) there is no systematic plan to get rid of SUSE people,

(2) Novell/SUSE will continue to support both the GNOME and KDE desktop suites, and

(3) GNOME will be the default desktop on the Novell and SUSE Linux distributions, but that Novell and SUSE Linux distribution users will be able to select the KDE desktop if they so chose.

In an e-mail discussion about these issues with the Novell people we mentioned:

Kurt Pfeifle asks, "Why has Novell management decided to discontinue their entire SUSE Linux branded desktop and workstation product line?"

And then we asked:

Has Novell decided to discontinue its "entire SUSE Linux branded desktop and workstation product line"? Has there even been any discussion or hint that Novell might discontinue its "SUSE Linux branded desktop" or "workstation product line", or any SUSE products for that matter?

Responding for Novell, Senior Public Relations Manager Kevan Barney wrote:

Not even close. Linux on the desktop is one of our key markets going forward. We have two Linux offerings that people use as desktops or workstations. Novell Linux Desktop (for the enterprise user) and SUSE Linux 10.0 (for the individual/community user). Both are based on the SUSE Linux distribution.

We discussed more of these issues with the Novell people via e-mails on Wednesday and Thursday. Kevan Barney, Novell Senior Public Relations Manager, answered on behalf of Novell.

MozillaQuest Magazine: How many people did SUSE have when Novell acquired SUSE?

Kevan Barney: Around 300.

MozillaQuest Magazine: How many of those people still are at Novell/SUSE?

Kevan Barney: We won't provide specifics, but it's clearly the vast majority. SUSE has been completely integrated into Novell.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Will KDE continue to be the primary desktop for SUSE Linux?

Kevan Barney: Current and future SUSE Linux products will continue to offer both the GNOME and KDE desktop environments. Novell will continue to invest in both GNOME and KDE and we will continue to offer maintenance and support for these products and their desktop environments throughout their planned product lifetimes.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is the openSUSE project in reality the initial phase of Novell dumping SUSE?

Kevan Barney: No, not at all. openSUSE is a means to strengthen and enhance the development of SUSE Linux.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What support was SUSE providing to KDE at the time Novell acquired SUSE?

Kevan Barney: I'm no expert, but KDE has long been well supported by SUSE.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What support is Novell/SUSE providing to KDE at this time?

Kevan Barney: See answer above.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is Novell now repeating its fiasco of the mid '90s when it acquired Unix, DR DOS, WordPerfect, Quatro Pro, and other really great properties, started building a complete software collection including top notch OSs and applications, and then divested of them within a few years of the acquisitions?

Kevan Barney: The phrasing of your question makes it difficult to answer accurately. I will say that Linux is key to Novell's long-term, ongoing strategy, and Novell's Linux products are making significant strides in the marketplace. Nobody is faulting Novell's strategy around Linux. We are working hard to execute on it.

  • See Novell Shifts from KDE to GNOME on Page 3 ----->
  • See Is Novell's Shift from KDE to GNOME a Mistake? on Page 3 ----->
  • <---- Back to Page 1


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