Wednesday, January 21, 2004

a little tech for you

After work this evening, I attended a Novell presentation on their current and future plans for the Linux platform. It had been billed as an exclusive opportunity to hear Novell's CTO talk about Novell and Linux from a technical perspective. Only 100 people would be allowed to attend. So, of course, I replied to the invite right away to secure my seat.

When I arrived at the Marriott Marquis, there were about 30 people in a room set up for 100. So right away, the presentation wasn't the hot attraction it was made out to be. That's OK: it was a Tuesday night, it was about 20 degrees outside, American Idol was on later. There were many reasons to skip the entire thing. Unfortunately, the CTO had to cancel at the last minute, so we heard from a marketing/product manager instead, and the presentation turned into a review of Novell's acquisitions in 2003 (Ximian, SuSE, SilverStream). What was most annoying was the interaction between the Novell geeks and the Linux geeks. As the marketing rep talked about Ximian Desktop being the most popular Linux desktop, the techie sitting next to me crossed his arms and shook his head; it was obvious he had some other Linux desktop in mind. Later, when someone asked how many copies of Ximian Desktop Novell had shipped worldwide, another Linux zealot pointed out that

1) Ximian Desktop is a free download, so there's no such concept as shipping that particular product;
2) Ximian Desktop comes with many Linux distributions, so there are millions of copies of it in use or at least available.

Neither of these points answered the man's question, and the Novell rep didn't have numbers for him either. My point is that these kind of arguments about Linux-- which desktop is more popular, which distribution is better, which vendors support your favorite distribution or desktop -- are just what I was hoping to avoid at tonight's event. Novell is trying to sell an operating system and a desktop interface, and it doesn't do the Novell community any good for us to be arguing over which interface or setup tool is better. I'm afraid that at BrainShare in March Novell's CEO will say something about Novell and Linux and inadvertently upset half the audience by mentioning GNOME instead of KDE. The trouble with Linux enthusiasts is that they all have different opinions about what makes the idea Linux installation, and will defend these opinions to death. These people scare me, and now Novell has invited them into the tent.

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