At LinuxWorld Conference & Expo last week, I went to Novell's press conference on OpenSUSE, and sat down with Novell's Director of Marketing for Linux, Greg Mancusi-Ungaro to talk about the project and how Novell plans to differentiate OpenSUSE from Fedora.
As Dana points out, the project doesn't seem to be setting the world on fire with excitement. My personal watermark for success is the Ubuntu project -- not in terms of the distribution, but in the way that it caught on. Remember that Ubuntu is a very young project and it's garnered enthusiasm from users and industry. In less than a year, Ubuntu has built a huge user base and attracted attention from OEMs looking for the right distro. (The next release should take this to the next level, since Breezy is supposed to include OEM tools that make it easy for OEMs to deploy Ubuntu.)
So why has Ubuntu caught on so quickly? Well, in part I think it's timing and luck (never underestimate the power of being in the right place at the right time...), but there are several other reasons as well -- one, it's easy to use. Novell has that covered nicely with OpenSUSE, so no problem there.
Also, Ubuntu was -- right off the bat -- easy for people to get involved with. Unfortunately, OpenSUSE doesn't quite have this covered. When talking to Novell at the press conference, and one-on-one with Mancusi-Ungaro, they do seem to understand the importance of granting developer access and have that in the roadmap -- but, at the moment, it's mostly a top-down model that doesn't really inspire participation.
Novell has plans to implement public respositories and put in place a way for outside developers to participate -- but until they do so, the people they need to make the project really successful are on the outside looking in. In all fairness, it's a bit harder for Novell to do this than it was for the Ubuntu project. Ubuntu was planned from the ground up to be a community project, SUSE started out much differently -- it will take Novell time to adapt those processes and tools so that the community can participate. As I understand it, they're not even using a standard revision control system, so it's not like they can throw open access to their internal CVS or Subversion repository, even if they wanted to do it immediately.
So, are people yawning? I can tell you from the discussions I had on the LWCE show floor that there isn't much excitement over OpenSUSE -- and I discussed with quite a few folks from the media, community projects and the corporate side as well. It's being discussed a great deal -- the only topic that I heard more about at LWCE was the patent problem -- but without much enthusiasm. Some users may be looking forward to getting SUSE for free, but that's about it. I hate to say that, because I think Novell wants to do "the right thing," by putting this project out there, and I hope that Novell will take note of the community's reaction, and step up efforts to make OpenSUSE more of a community project.