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Novell may nix NetWare development

A day after the networking-software maker said it had bought Linux company Ximian, Novell executives say it's likely that their company's own OS will go fallow in favor of Linux.

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SAN FRANCISCO--A day after networking-software maker Novell announced that it had bought Ximian, a firm that helps businesses adopt Linux on the desktop, Novell executives said it's likely that their company's own NetWare operating system will go fallow in favor of Linux.

Novell plans to run its NetWare services--such as eDirectory and Secure Identity Management--on the Red Hat and SuSE Linux distributions. Novell currently has products that run on Linux, Unix, Windows and NetWare.

"NetWare will continue to exist with a large customer base, and we will continue to maintain it as long as customers want it," said Chris Stone, vice chairman at Novell. Stone said he thought NetWare support would continue for the foreseeable future, even if development does not. "There are still people using (the) VMS (operating system) and minicomputers. Just because development stops, doesn't mean people stop using it."

Novell also announced on Tuesday that it would be porting its entire GroupWise collaboration software, a product that significantly overlaps with Ximian's Evolution client, to Linux. The applications handle e-mail, scheduling and contact information to keep employees organized. Although Novell intends to support both software packages, the eventual goal is to have only one, said Stone.

The moves indicate a major shift in strategy for Novell, which only a year ago positioned Linux as the enemy and didn't show up at LinuxWorld. Now company executives are saying open-source software is the future for the industry and their company.

"Novell is committed to becoming a strong participant in open source, and (Ximian's founders) are here to make sure we do," said Jack Messman, Novell's CEO. The Provo, Utah-based company announced it had bought Ximian the day before LinuxWorld opened.

Although company representatives haven't said that Novell will stop all development on the NetWare platform, they did say the company is looking to Linux as the future. The revenues from NetWare have declined 9 percent to 14 percent annually, said one representative, making the switch a no-brainer.

"Most of our development is going to be for Linux," Stone said.

Matthew Szulik, CEO of Red Hat, was not surprised by Novell's about-face on Linux. "It is what it is," he said. "They see an opportunity to get into the Linux marketplace."

Red Hat announced on Monday that it was suing Unix software seller SCO and asking the courts for a declaratory judgment on whether Linux violates any of SCO's intellectual property. Red Hat has also pledged $1 million to a legal fund for open-source software causes and has called for other companies that have benefited from the open-source community to pony up additional funds.