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Messman: ‘BrainShare doesn’t do Windows’

Sep 21, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Novell CEO goes after Microsoft

It was déjà vu all over again at Novell’s recently concluded BrainShare:Europe conference in Barcelona. If you closed your eyes you might think it was the legendary Novell CEO Ray Noorda speaking instead of the current (and usually bland) leader Jack Messman.

Messman took off after Microsoft as no other Novell CEO has done since Noorda was eased out of the company 10 years ago. Noorda thought Bill Gates was an inconsiderate pipsqueak and didn’t mind who knew that he thought that way. After he left, a successor, Bob Frankenberg almost single-handedly ended Novell’s holy war against Microsoft  ( as the company went down a path towards a peaceful co-existence. Until now. Messman walked out on that stage in Barcelona and told the crowd: “This year the BrainShare network doesn’t do Windows, and neither do I.” Predictably that drew a large cheer from the Linux-loving crowd who generally can agree about little except that Microsoft is evil.

One difference between Messman and Noorda, of course, is that Ray thought NetWare was the weapon with which to beat Microsoft, while Jack has a different idea.

Messman delivered a real stem-winder, at least for him. He’s not known as a great public speaker, ranking somewhere below Gates and even Frankenberg, but Messman’s statements such as: “It is our vision to create a world without information boundaries,” did get the rabble roused, as did the reminder that Novell was going to put Linux on every desktop in the company.

Still, if you ban Windows, isn’t that raising an artificial barrier to information? Isn’t that a boundary? Isn’t that the antithesis of the open source movement? Shouldn’t each of us – and each of Novell’s employees – be allowed to choose the platform that best enables us to do what we want to do whether that platform is Linux, Windows, OS X, OS/2 – or NetWare?

My favorite line from the speech, though, was when Messman said: “My vision is that companies won’t have to spend so much on operating systems which have been commoditized and spend more on innovation.” Evidently there’s no longer room to innovate within the operating system. That should come as quite an eye-opened to Linus Torvalds and his inner circle.

I kept waiting for Novell’s PR folks to rush out a new interpretation of Messman’s remarks as they had to do at the 2003 BrainShare in Salt Lake City when, in his keynote, Messman referred to Linux as an “immature operating system.” But there was no clarification forthcoming this time, so we’ll have to take his words as correctly reflecting corporate thinking at Novell.  In that case, his last slide was telling. It said, in it’s entirety:

Novell = Linux + Identity

While Novell is no longer a Utah company (its headquarters are now in Waltham, Mass.) it might reflect on the story of another Utah company which hitched its wagon to the Linux star. Caldera Systems was the driving force behind the creation of OpenLinux (an organization which included SuSE, I might add) a couple of years ago. That product floundered, so Caldera changed its name and chose a different path. You know them today as The SCO Group.