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Q&A With Novell CEO Jack Messman

Novell CEO Jack Messman makes his case on why his company matters.

In 2003, Novell CEO Jack Messman increased shareholder value by a whopping 185 percent. Instead of widespread acclaim, however, he and the rest of the Novell management team are still fighting the notion that their company is no longer relevant. Below, he makes his case why Novell matters.

VB: Your stock is up, but sales aren't. How are you feeling about business?
Messman: When we started putting the pieces of the strategy together, we couldn't tell you where we thought it was going to lead us. We made the announcement that NetWare 7 was going to the Linux kernel, but we couldn't tell you that we would wind up owning distribution as well. But we basically have been able to put all the pieces together over the last year. We announced we are going to put the network services that are in NetWare on Linux. Then we acquired Ximian, then SuSE. Now we've probably got a better strategic position than ever.

VB: How so?
Messman: Well, we own a complete stack. In many respects, we are going back to our roots and hopefully learning from our mistakes. When I say going back to our roots, I mean we have always been an operating systems company. We were at the server level, but not at the desktop. And now we are at both. We have a desktop Linux product--two, actually--in KDE, which is very popular in Europe, and GNOME Desktop XD2 from Ximian here in the United States. So we have two very popular desktop products, and we have a server product. The other interesting thing that's a differentiator for us is that the code that's in the desktop operating system is the same as the code in the server operating system. That will allow us to optimize between the server and the client even better. Even Microsoft doesn't have that luxury today...We think over time Linux will make inroads. Those will occur not at once, but as people migrate to a new hardware system over a period of time.

Vital Stats

Age: 62

Year Joined Company: 1982 (rejoined in 2001)
Education: B.S., chemical engineering, University of Delaware; M.B.A., Harvard School of Business
Outside Board Seats: RadioShack, Safeguard Scientifics
Previous Corporate Positions: Chairman & CEO, Cambridge Technology Partners; Chairman & CEO, Union Pacific Resources Group; Chairman & CEO, U.S. Pollution Control; Mng. Dir., Mason Best of Houston; Chairman & CEO, Somerset House; EVP-CFO, Warner Amex Cable Comm.; EVP, Safeguard; Pres. & CEO, Norcross

2003 Compensation: $1,920,031

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