Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said the Linux industry must create a vendor neutral standard for application development or face the same fragmentation that killed Unix.
Speaking before a packed audience at LinuxWorld at the Moscone Center Wednesday, the Novell CEO said the Linux Standards Base (LSB) is a good start but it's not enough. A standard Linux ISV certification is needed to prevent fragmentation and build an ISV community like the one Microsoft created for Windows, he said.
“In Unix, we fragmented the applications and the No. 1 thing we need is applications. We need customers and the ISVs to have their footprints on the Linux platform,” he said. “If you look at the competition and Windows their application availability is their biggest advantage. They’ve got the applications."
The Linux distribution market won’t expand until the platform is consistent. “It’s a vision … so that ISVs can certify their application once and seamlessly port it across multiple Linux distributions. The vendors win. It opens up a broader market for applications and the customers," he said.
And in spite of the ugly battle that erupted between the open source community and Novell following its proprietary interoperability pact with Microsoft signed last year, Hovsepian thanked the Free Software Foundation and its eloquent general counsel Eben Moglen for creating and enforcing the General Public License, and more subtly, for grand-fathering the Novell-Microsoft agreement in the final version of GPL3.
He claimed the coupons for SUSE Linux customers get from Microsoft and redeem from Novell adhere to the GPL and Microsoft does not “feel that they are a legal party to the contract," Hovsepian said.
“Linux would not be where it is today. We thank them and compliment them for their work on the GPL and we’ll ship GPL3 in [SUSE Linux Enterprise Server] as those packages become available,” he said.
In the same vein, the Novell CEO praised proprietary software companies for jumping on the Linux bandwagon, including Oracle’s leap into the Linux distribution support market -- based on a variation of Novell rival Red Hat -- and even Microsoft’s additional deals with Linux distributors Linspire and Xandros.
Sometimes you’ve got to make a deal with the devil to satisfy customer needs, he hinted. “We’ve had 20 years battling with the Microsoft company in our blood but the reality is [that it is a mixed source environment] when you walk through the customers door,” he said.
“Microsoft is a reality in the mixed source world,” he said. “We see the evolution of our partners’ development models and we see more of a mixed source world where customer can focus on the real value of the software and the real value is how software works together. "
Novell hasn't backed down on its support for OpenDocument and won't switch to OpenXML, he claimed. Novell instead provides for customers OpenXML translators to bridge the gap with Microsoft Office.