Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone stumped for the viability of an open-source business model to kick off the Open Source Business Conference Tuesday, emphasizing a theme that will likely be repeated at Novell's BrainShare next week.
Stone defended Novell's choice to support Linux by investing over $250 million to buy Linux vendors Ximian and SUSE Linux. He said the move was not intended to replace Novell's longstanding investment in the NetWare operating system, but rather complement it.
"We still support NetWare; we still sell it," he said during his talk at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. "Linux is complementary to NetWare because it gives customers [a] choice."
In fact, Stone said vendors need to carefully weigh what their company's core business value is and see what kind of open-source technology complements and/or substitutes software integral to their business models. Only then can the company decide if it wants to invest in open source and what technologies would be the best investment, he said.
Stone also said companies like Novell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM would not be pouring millions into Linux and open-source software if they didn't think it would be a good investment.
"Why do you think IBM and HP are investing in Linux? It's a complement for hardware," Stone said. "They're not substituting anything, they are complementing it. That's why their profit margins are going up."
However, "Linux is a substitute for Windows," Stone said. "Why do you [think] Microsoft is creating so much FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] around it?" he said.
The Novell executive also opined that the real promise of making money by supporting open-source software is something all software vendors should be focused on. He also encouraged venture capitalists to invest in open source because there is plenty of money to be made on open-source software. "If [venture capitalists] are not investing in open source, [they] should be," he said. "Open source is not free."
Stone also reiterated Novell's stance on The SCO Group's lawsuits about Unix licensing infringement in the Linux kernel, taking aim squarely at SCO CEO Darl McBride. Stone said the SCO disputes over licensing are eclipsing the true goals of the open-source movement rampant in the tech industry right now, to drive innovation for customers, as well as set up a lucrative business model around open-source software.
"The problem is we're focused on all this [licensing] crap," Stone said. "That isn't the issue, Darl [McBride]. Licensing isn't the issue."
Perhaps pandering to his audience of faithful open-source developers and vendors, Stone further blasted McBride for the lawsuits, which some in the industry suspect are being bankrolled by Microsoft in an attempt to thwart the spread of Linux.
"Sorry, Darl, Al Gore didn't invent the Internet, and you didn't invent the Linux kernel or intellectual property law," Stone said. "We believe Unix is not Linux, and Linux is a free and open distribution. It should be and it always will be."
Novell's annual BrainShare developer conference, runs March 21-26 in Salt Lake City.