LinuxWorld: Novell hails Linux, criticizes SCO

Novell said its GroupWise collaboration platform will run entirely on Linux early next year

Novell Inc. officials at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo yesterday hailed their company's commitment to Linux and criticized The SCO Group Inc. for its attempts to extract licensing fees for use of the open-source platform.

Taking steps to boost its Linux support, Novell said the GroupWise collaboration platform will run entirely on Linux in the first half of 2004. This includes both the GroupWise client and server. The company also said its eDirectory software is being supported on the Red Hat Inc. Linux AS and SuSE Linux AG Enterprise Server 8 Linux distributions. Company officials also stressed the benefits of Novell's acquisition of open-source software vendor Ximian Inc., which was announced Aug. 4.(see story).

Near the end of a joint Novell/Ximian press conference, Novell Chairman and CEO Jack Messman took a not-so-veiled shot at Unix vendor SCO, which claims it owns the rights to Unix technologies in Linux and is therefore owed license fees by companies such as IBM. Lindon, Utah-based SCO is suing IBM for $3 billion. Novell sold Unix copyrights to SCO in 1995, after Novell had acquired them from AT&T Corp., but Novell in May said it never transferred the copyrights and patents for Unix System V.

"As you know, there is pending and threatened litigation," Messman said. "There have been a number of unsubstantiated claims of intellectual property violations. I think that there's a lot of FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] being thrown at Linux that might be considered helpful to [Unix], and I have to admire the steps Red Hat took yesterday."

Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat has filed a complaint against SCO with the intention of showing that Red Hat's technologies don't infringe on SCO's intellectual property and to hold SCO accountable for "unfair and deceptive actions." Red Hat announced that it has filed a lawsuit against SCO in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (see story).

In a prepared response to Messman's comments, SCO said it "has substantiated its claims by showing misappropriated source code to analysts, media, customers, resellers, investors and developers. We will continue to substantiate our claims and we look forward to proving our claims in court with Red Hat and IBM. We are seeking licensing fees from customers in order to compensate SCO for the Unix code that they are using."

Novell and Ximian officials during the news conference, meanwhile, stressed that the merger of the two companies offers plenty of promise. "We're very excited about this deal. It's an important step forward in Novell's strategy to become a leader in open, cross-platform computing, particularly with Linux," Messman said.

"Novell is determined to become a strong, constructive participant in open-source," he said. Boston-based Ximian's products will remain available in an open-source format, according to Novell.

Ximian offers desktop and management products, such as Red Carpet, which is software for updating Linux distributions; Desktop 2, a Linux desktop environment; and Evolution, which integrates e-mail, calendaring, contact management and task lists. Ximian also is leading the Mono project, an effort to provide developers with open-source tools for building Microsoft .Net applications that can run on Linux.

Nat Friedman, vice president of research and development at Ximian, said his company is excited to have access to Novell's infrastructure capabilities. "We were shocked to discover that Novell had a really strong commitment to Linux and open-source," Friedman said.

Novell has been pondering making some of its other products via open-source, but isn't yet ready to announce anything, Messman said.

Novell also said it plans to offer both the Evolution and GroupWise messaging systems for the time being. "Maybe we'll get to a universal client" eventually, said Chris Stone, Novell vice chairman.

In addition, Novell intends to continue offering its NetWare services for as long as customers want them, the company said.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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