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Novell Eyes Linux Tuned For SMBs

Novell may roll a version of Linux tuned specifically for the SMB market, chairman and CEO Jack Messman said Thursday during a conference call announcing the company's strong fiscal 2004 earnings and return to profitability.

"We have many competitive advantages here that will allow us to become a leader in Linux in a short period of time," Messman said. "In addition, we probably need a Linux offering for the SMB market, which our channel partners can sell along with us."

Few vendors field Linux distributions targeted solely at the SMB space, so such an offering could go a step further in helping Novell position itself as a vendor with a full range of open-source offerings. That's a message the company emphasized earlier this month, when it added Novell Linux Desktop to its product lineup alongside its flagship SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 operating system.

In yesterday's call, Messman indicated that the company's SuSE Linux operation, which it acquired a year ago, continues to a bright spot for Novell. "We're seeing increased demand from large customers for enterprisewide licensing agreements," he said. In Novell's 2004 fourth fiscal quarter, which ended Oct. 31, the company took in $12 million in Linux revenue. That number was stoked by sales of 21,000 subscriptions for its Enterprise Server OS, more than half of which were in North America. In addition, Novell booked three separate multiyear licensing agreements with unnamed Fortune 100 companies.

On the financial front, Novell yesterday reported overall fourth fiscal quarter revenue of $301 million, compared with revenues of $287 million for the year-earlier quarter. Net income was $13 million, compared with a loss of $109 million for the fourth quarter of 2003.

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