[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
Every time there's a trade show, there's also a flurry of predictable
press releases. New products, product upgrades, new partnerships and so
on. But sometimes, a company manages to sneak in a surprise. Novell
managed to throw the community a curve during the first day of
LinuxWorld Expo by announcing
that it had acquired Ximian. Novell executives have also hinted that
the company may stop developing
NetWare to focus on Linux in the future.
Earlier this year, Novell announced that it would be expanding its Linux
offerings, but the announcement was met with some skepticism and concern
that Novell's committment to Linux was half-hearted, particularly after
an early flub where Novell
CEO Jack Messman called Linux "immature." Messman soon apologized, and it would
appear that Novell is quite earnest in its committment to Linux.
On Tuesday, I spoke to Miguel de Icaza of Ximian about the acquisition
and plans going forward. De Icaza said that Ximian and Novell had
already been working together as partners on some projects before Novell
made the offer to buy Ximian.
For the time being, expect Ximian to pretty much stay the same course as
it was on before the acquisition was announced. De Icaza says that
Ximian will operate as an independent subsidiary of Novell and continue
with its existing schedule, and deliver the products that were in the
pipeline before the acquisition. Evolution, Ximian Connector, Red
Carpet, Mono and Ximian Desktop will continue to be developed. Long
term, he indicated that there would be tighter integration between
Novell's offerings and Ximian's.
Though it wasn't mentioned in Novell's press release, de Icaza says that
Novell will also be developing its own Linux distribution in addition to
making its products available for other Linux distributions. Few details are
available about this new Linux distribution, and de Icaza said
that they had not yet established a timeline for the first release.
Obviously, users can expect to see the Ximian desktop and tight
integration with Ximian's Red Carpet, but details about the remainder of
the distribution are sketchy at the moment.
According to de Icaza, one advantage of a Novell Linux distribution is
that it would give Ximian the opportunity to delve deeper into the
operating system. He noted that Ximian has been somewhat limited in the
features they could implement, since Ximian Desktop and other Ximian
products had to integrate with other distributions whose development
wasn't under Ximian's control. Making modifications to the kernel, for
example, wasn't really an option.
Novell will also give Ximian's product line a shot with customers that
the company found it difficult to reach before teaming with Novell. The
enterprise channel is tough to break into, and de Icaza indicated that
Ximian had previously found that larger companies to be nervous about
deploying Ximian solutions. As part of Novell, Ximian's products are now
considered less risky because customers know Novell.
The fact you have a company the size of Novell that's going to be
around, from that perspective that's what gets a lot of people
interested. You have a great product, the problem is getting the product
into the hands of people...getting access to that channel is very
important to us.
Overall, the merger looks to be a good deal for Ximian, Novell and the
Linux community as a whole. While Novell's influence has been waning,
the company still maintains a respectable presence in the enterprise
market. The addition of Novell services to Linux's bag of tricks will
definitely help spur Linux adoption on both the desktop and the server
in larger companies.
On the other side, the acquisition of Ximian may help give Novell a
little more credibility with the existing Linux community and help them
to get up to speed with Linux more quickly.
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