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Why Novell Must Not Crash and Burn

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Not since SCO has there been a company so reviled by the open source community as Novell following its deal with Microsoft. Already there are some clear signs of the negative effects of that anger: senior coders have left the company; Novell has posted a loss for the most recent quarter; and there are calls for a boycott of Novell products – to say nothing of imminent changes to the GNU GPL that might well nullify the entire Novell-Microsoft deal. Some people are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of Novell crashing and burning completely, but such a development could actually turn out to be one of the worst things to happen to free software.

One reason why Novell has had so much vitriol heaped upon it is that until that deal with Microsoft, it seemed to be a company that really got open source. After clinging on too long to its fading NetWare product – and resisting open standards in the shape of TCP/IP – it started to get serious about open source. In August 2003 it bought Ximian, the company founded by Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman, and then the leading European distribution, SuSE, Red Hat's main rival. This seemed to establish Novell as one of the top two open source companies, with good prospects of profiting nicely from the burgeoning business use of free software.

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