Novell Acquires Linux Trailblazer Ximian

As the LinuxWorld conference kicks off, Novell has announced the purchase of Ximian, a privately held company known as a trailblazer in the open source space, for an undisclosed amount. According to Novell, the deal was an all-cash transaction and will not affect its financial statements this fiscal year.

According to a statement issued in conjunction with the announcement, acquiring Ximian will increase Novell’s capacity to support Linux products that work with its enterprise applications, such as GroupWise and Nterprise.

“Customers still face two key business issues: how to provide cost-effective management and maintenance of Linux systems, and how to deploy and support low-cost Linux desktops within the organization,” Novell CEO Jack Messman said. “Ximian brings Novell unparalleled expertise, strengthening our ability to work with [our] customers and leverage open source initiatives more constructively.”

Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) spokesperson Kevan Barney told the E-Commerce Times that his company did not necessarily wait for LinuxWorld to announce its acquisition. However, “the timing was certainly serendipitous.”

Barney also said the matchup is a perfect fit. He noted that Novell and Ximian have worked together on several projects, and that Ximian’s products and vision are in keeping with Novell’s stated Linux strategy and commitment.

Linux Jumpstart

Bill Claybrook, Linux and Unix research director at Aberdeen Group, told the E-Commerce Times that Novell is trying to jump-start its performance in the Linux market through the purchase.

“Novell sees the handwriting on the wall. If they do not get into the Linux market, they’re dead,” Claybrook said.

Ximian’s founders are leaders in two Linux open source projects: Gnome, which is dedicated to developing a full-featured open source desktop platform; and Mono, which provides software developers with open source capabilities for building .NET applications that can run on the Unix and Linux operating systems.

Ximian CTO Miguel de Icaza, founder of the Gnome initiative, called Novell’s acquisition “a huge step forward. Initiatives like Gnome and Mono will only improve with Novell’s resources behind them.”

The Right Choice?

However, despite his belief that Novell needs to get involved in the Linux market, Claybrook said he is surprised that the company bought Ximian. Given Novell’s enterprise focus, he explained, it seemed more likely that Novell would have purchased or aligned itself with a Linux entity on the server side.

In fact, Claybrook noted that Sun Microsystems, rather than Novell, should have purchased Ximian, because Sun and Ximian have been working closely together for about three years. He said he is not sure whether Sun passed on acquiring Ximian or simply did not expect another company to do so.

While Novell’s intentions may have been good, Claybrook said he would have preferred that a more mainstream company buy Ximian so that Ximian’s products would get better exposure more quickly in the marketplace. He noted that Novell’s market share in its core sectors has dropped from 70 percent to almost zero.

“Ximian is a dynamic little company,” he said. “I’m afraid Novell is going to drag them down. There is a big cultural difference between Provo, Utah [where Novell is located], and Cambridge, Massachusetts [where Ximian resides].”

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