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Novell looks good in Linux

Nov 11, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Novell SuSE Linux buy is a good thing

Looks like Novell is getting serious about this Linux thing, doesn’t it? I ended the last issue by saying I had picked up some strong whiffs of an acquisition by Novell of a Linux vendor. Evidently, this forced Jack Messmann to move quickly (that’s a joke, folks) and strike a deal to buy Germany’s SuSE Linux. (By the way, it’s pronounced SOO-sa. Better learn that now.)

It was a foregone conclusion that Novell would need to have its own Linux distribution if it were ever to pull off the “NetWare on Linux” that was prematurely announced at the last BrainShare. The only question was which distribution it would acquire.

Red Hat topped most lists when folks speculated, with Caldera/SCO coming second (until the recent spat over who owns which parts of Unix) and SuSE a distant third. When SCO was dropped from the running, and the comparative price tags for Red Hat and SuSE were examined in the cold light of day, the chance of the Nuremburg-based company being the target quickly grew. Once IBM weighed in with its opinion ($50 million investment in Novell stock), it became a foregone conclusion.

IBM uses the SuSE distribution as the basis of its eServer enterprise Linux products. By dropping 50 big ones on Novell (subject to the acquisition getting regulatory and shareholder approval), IBM signals its intent to maintain its relationship with SuSE and Novell can demonstrate that there’s a built-in market for the product. Everybody wins.

The only potential fly in the ointment is, surprisingly, going to be on the Linux desktop – not the server. SuSE is the major proponent of the KDE (K Desktop Environment – often mistakenly called the Kopernicus Desktop Environment or the Kool Desktop Environment) GUI. But Novell’s earlier acquisition of Linux tools maker Ximian was the driving force behind the GNOME (pronounced GA-nome) GUI.

Now the fans of KDE and the fans of GNOME get along about as well as supporters of Windows and supporters of Linux (or Macs and PCs, for that matter). In other words, don’t leave one of each alone together in a room or there might be blood on the floor. That’s unfortunate, because Miguel de Icaza, co-founder of Ximian and chief architect of Gnome doesn’t feel that way.

True, de Icaza is now a Novell employee so he should be expected to say nice things about the SuSE acquisition. But even at the start of the GNOME project back in 1997 he said: “The GNOME project definitely would like to be interoperable with KDE, so in every aspect where we can stay compatible, we will try to be compatible with them. Both KDE and GNOME are good for pushing Linux into the desktop.  Right now KDE is the best tool we have to increase the Linux market share, and thus it is very important.” (

It looks like Novell made the right move at the right time to bring to fruition its announced plan of NetWare 7 on a Linux kernel. And it appears that Wall Street agrees, as Novell’s stock jumped almost 50% on the SuSE acquisition announcement.