Microsoft, Novell share common belief

In an online forum, executives from the two companies agree that proprietary and open source software are intertwined in the enterprise.

These days, Microsoft and Novell Inc. are often found bickering in court. But they are in agreement about at least one thing: Enterprises will probably always have a mix of proprietary and open source software.

During a webcast hosted by Precursor, a Washington-based consulting firm, Martin Taylor, Microsoft's global general manager of platform strategy, and David Patrick, general manager of Linux and open source at Novell, both acknowledged that proprietary and open source software will coexist in a mixed world.

While Taylor agreed that customers will continue to deploy both types of software, he said Microsoft has no intention, either short or long term, to make its Office productivity applications

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Although Waltham, Mass.-based Novell anticipates a mixed-software universe, not everything lends itself to open source, so there will be an evolution of products that run in mixed environments, Patrick said. "This may ultimately shift," he said.

Today, Novell runs all its products on a common kernel. The company just released a desktop that runs on Linux. Where the company does run proprietary software, it will continue to do so unless it sees an open source alternative that makes more sense, Patrick said.

Patrick said Novell has had "tens of thousands" of downloads of its desktop Linux package since its launch more than a week ago. "We've had huge interest," he said. Many of the customers are in transaction-oriented environments.

Precursor president Bill Whyman said the two companies appear to be arguing that features and support -- not customer dedication to a platform -- will ultimately set them apart.

"This issue has been cast in religious tones, so it's astonishing to hear them say that this will be just a matter of trade-offs among different parameters," he said. "This will go to the offerings -- to what extent they give users integration support, transition toolkits and how easy they make it for customers to work in a mixed environment."

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