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Novell's iFolder Now an OSS Project

We've questioned Novell regarding its strategy of integrating open-source applications within its proprietary product line. Proprietary and open-source companies have radically different core values. It's like matter and antimatter, since companies that develop proprietary software have a vested interest in keeping algorithms, code and similar information closed and secret, while open-source companies share this information publicly.

One source of conflict is how a company treats patents; another is its approach to customer "lock-in." If a company issues directives to enforce its software patents, for example, and attempts to lock in customers, the company's open-source projects likely would be in conflict with these directives. We don't believe these differences can be resolved unattended, thus the need for a conventional software company to develop an open-source strategy.

Novell has been cagey in the past about how it would deal with these pitfalls--indeed, the company's public stance has been that there is no conflict between OSS and proprietary strategies. Still, it appears that Novell has wisely chosen a cautious, organic transformation: See how the process goes with one open-source product, then use the lessons learned to evaluate other Novell product lines as potential OSS projects.

But actions will continue to speak louder than words. Even if iFolder turns out to be a difficult project, Novell should not get discouraged about moving other projects to OSS, but simply adjust its open-source road map.

Fortunately, Novell's game plan is a win-win situation. Potential iFolder adopters need not worry about the company's long-term strategy or health: As the still-successful OSS project Nautilus has shown, nothing dies on SourceForge.