Today, as it brings its open-source message to the enterprise, Novell is taking a more measured approach. With its introduction last month of Novell Linux Desktop, powered by the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server platform it acquired early this year, the company didn't promise to end Microsoft's Windows-based hegemony. Instead, Novell actually acknowledged that Linux vendors are overselling the state of the technology, that Linux partisans are overstating the capabilities of open-source desktops, and that CIOs are still approaching Linux as if it were a stunt on Fear Factor. Novell admits that its NLD suite of applications won't be a threat to Microsoft Office anytime soon, and that 2005 will be "another rebuilding year" as it continues to shift away from its reliance on NetWare sales.
For now, Novell is aiming the NLD suite of office (OpenOffice.org), e-mail/calendaring (Novell Evolution) and Web browser (Mozilla Firefox) software at relatively small pockets of desktop users: call center, shop floor and other specialized workers; technical professionals accustomed to the "feel" of a Unix-like environment; and Linux early-adopter verticals, like government and education. Even while arguing that NLD excels in terms of cost, security and reliability, Novell doesn't expect general enterprise adoption of the suite for at least several years. (Read our Quick Review of Novell Linux Desktop 9.)
So what does Novell stand to gain by taking this high road? Credibility. It's promising only what it can realistically hope to deliver.