March 16, 2004 10:52 AM PST

Novell plugs open source, dings SCO

SAN FRANCISCO--Open-source software is forcing improvement in the computing industry, and the SCO Group's attack on Linux is wrongheaded, a senior Novell executive said Tuesday.

Novell, which bought No. 2-ranked SuSE Linux earlier this year, believes the intellectual property foundations of open-source software are sound, Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone said during his keynote speech at the Open Source Business Conference here. And the Waltham, Mass.-based company is using its position as an earlier owner of Unix to counteract SCO's attack.


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"We still own Unix. We believe Unix is not in Linux and that Linux is a free and open distribution--and should be and always will be," Stone said. In a jab at SCO Chief Executive Darl McBride, he added, "Sorry, Darl. Al Gore didn't invent the Internet, and you didn't invent Linux or intellectual property law."

SCO, a company that bought Unix intellectual property in 2001 and asserts ownership of Unix copyrights, argues that Linux infringes its Unix intellectual property. The company is suing Linux users as well as IBM over the matter. Novell, an earlier Unix owner, argues it still owns the Unix copyrights, which has forced SCO to sue to settle the matter.

SCO didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Chris Stone, vice chairman, Novell

With open-source software, programmers collaborate by sharing the underlying source code freely, a method that stands in stark contrast to the secrecy of the proprietary software realm. Linux is the best-known example, but open-source software has spread to many other parts of the software business, including Eclipse for programming tools, OpenOffice for word processing and Apache for Web site software.

Because open-source software by its nature can't be sold only by a single company, customers can switch more easily and software sellers are therefore forced to concentrate on the proper ways to maintain customer loyalty, Stone said.

"Open source forces vendors to focus on the big issues--customer satisfaction, innovation and support," he said.

The way for a company to profit from open-source software is to find which products compete with it and how they complement it. Typically, that means companies can profit by selling software or services that rest on an open-source foundation, he said.

"The value of the business is higher up. That's where you pay attention," Stone said.

For Novell, that means looking beyond Linux itself. "It's not in the operating system, folks. It's much higher up the stack," Stone said. "The last thing I'd like Novell to become is the Linux company."

Stone also argued that open-source software isn't shoddy, as some critics suggest. "Open-source procedures produce better code," he said. "It's not weak code at all. It's very good stuff."

One reason for the quality is that programmers are motivated not by what a boss is telling them to do but by what they want to do. "You really get the personal touch out of all this," Stone said.

3 comments

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The spin is on...
It's strange to hear the spin a company like Novell or
IBM will use
to try to push Open Source. It's also funny to see high
power
CEOs pretend they are "one of the radicals" in an
attempt to cozy
up with the techno-geeks they assume will be
influencing IT management to push towards Linux.

If Open Source is "better" than proprietary software
because, in
their words, "no boss is telling the programmers what to
do",
then why should anyone buy *anything* from a Novell
or an IBM?
Wouldn't their supposed "value add" products be
deficient in
comparison to the inevitable Open Source alternatives
BY THEIR
OWN ADMISSION? Talk about a double standard!

Beyond that, though, is this strange notion that as an IT
person,
I should be comforted by the fact that my OS is in the
hands of
people who have no real vested interest beyond "a fun
hobby"
compelling them to develop.

Of course IBM and Novell have an answer to that I'm
sure... "Buy
our Linux distro because, you know, the OS doesn't
matter and
Open Source code is better because its made by
unpaid hippies
but, at the end of the day, you still need someone who
works for
a living to have some skin in the game if you're going to
bet
your business on it."

Oddly enough, I don't find this rallying cry too inspiring...
Posted by mlambert890 (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
would you rather?
Maybe you get more comfort out taking whatever is handed to you sight unseen because it comes from an established company even if you know it is full of security bugs, faulty cide and an open invitation
to script kiddies to try out their virus tool of the day?
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
proof is in the pudding
I run both Windows and Linux machines in my office.

The Linux boxes are restarted when I choose to restart them or when there is a hardware failure.

The Windows boxes are restarted when Windows freezes or crashes.
Posted by (1 comment )
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