Novell hails Linux, criticises SCO

Novell officials at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo have hailed their company's commitment to Linux and criticised The SCO Group 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 would run entirely on Linux in the first half of 2004. This included both the GroupWise client and server. The company also said its eDirectory software is being supported on the Red Hat Linux and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 Linux distributions.

Company officials stressed the benefits of Novell's acquisition of open source software vendor Ximian, announced earlier in the week.

During the tail end of the joint Novell-Ximian press conference, Novell Chairman/CEO, Jack Messman, took a not-so-veiled shot at Unix vendor SCO, which is claiming it owns the rights to Unix technologies in Linux and is therefore owed license fees by companies such as IBM. SCO is suing IBM.

Novell sold Unix copyrights to SCO in 1995, after Novell had acquired them from AT&T.

Novell said, in May, it never transferred the copyrights and patents of Unix System V when it sold the software to SCO.

"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," Messman said.

Red Hat has filed a complaint against SCO Group with the intention of showing that Red Hat technologies do not infringe on SCO's intellectual property and to hold SCO accountable for "unfair and deceptive actions".

Red Hat announced that it had filed a lawsuit against SCO in the US District Court for the District of Delaware.

SCO, in a prepared response to Messman's comments, said: "SCO 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," SCO said. "We are seeking licensing fees from customers in order to compensate SCO for the Unix code that they are using."

Novell and Ximian officials stressed that the merger of the two companies offered plenty of promise.

"We're very excited about this deal," Messman said. "It's an important step forward in Novell's strategy to become a leader in open, cross-platform computing, particularly with Linux.

"Novell is determined to become a strong, constructive participant in open source," he said.

Ximian's products would remain available in an open source format, Novell said.

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.

Ximian's vice-president of research and development, Nat Friedman, said the company was 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 had been pondering making some of its other products via open source, but was not yet ready to announce anything, Messman said.

Novell also planned to offer both the Evolution and GroupWise messaging systems for the time being.

"Maybe we'll get to a universal client," eventually, Novell vice-chairman, Chris Stone, said.

Additionally, Novell intended to continue offering its NetWare services for as long as customers wanted them, the company said.

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