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Q&A: Novell's Stone explains Linux plunge, Mac toe-dipping

By Don Tennant
April 17, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SALT LAKE CITY -- At Novell Inc.'s BrainShare user and partner conference here, Chris Stone, the company's vice chairman, spoke Tuesday with Computerworld about the internal "food fights" Novell had over its Linux strategy and about what's happening behind the scenes regarding the issue of Mac support.
How did Novell come to the decision to make Linux the migration path for NetWare? Whose brainstorm was it? It was a collective brainstorm. Our customers were asking for that kind of a choice -- they were looking for an open door. We all know that NetWare's revenue has been dipping over the years -- it's not news. So what do you do? Do you keep throwing services at it? Do you keep enhancing it? Or do you find ways to make just the services the value and not the operating system? We decided that's the way you do it: You take the services and you make them the value, and you put them on different platforms. The directory was the guinea pig, and it's proven to be fairly successful.

Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone
Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone
The Linux operating environment isn't slowing down. It will clearly be the most pervasive of all the kernels out there. I can't find anybody that disagrees with that one. So it became pretty obvious. Our customers were looking for a path to get off NetWare or a reason to stay with NetWare. What you may find happening is when you open the door, people will say, "OK, I have a choice, but I'm just going to stay here for a while." What we may find is that because we did this, customers will renew their maintenance, just knowing there's a new way to go. So those were the arguments and food fights that we had internally as to whether we should do that or not. And we came to the right conclusion.
Beyond getting customers to renew their maintenance, is there any hope that you'll get new NetWare users this way? We actually do get new NetWare users today. I think with [NetWare] 6.5 [which was released for public beta on Monday], because it now has so much more functionality that's attractive to a bit of a different audience -- it has an app server, it's got some open-source tools -- we will see new NetWare customers. Will we see double-digit spikes where it grows like mad? No. But we do expect to see some new customers.
Was there ever a point where you saw Linux as a threat and then decided that rather than treat it as an enemy, you'd embrace it as a friend? Longer

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