The big news today is no doubt Novell’s acquisition of Ximian, Inc. So it was that much more interesting to get the chance to speak to Ximian’s lead primate, Miguel de Icaza, today and ask him some questions about Ximian, Novell, and their future.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted via telephone. All of Miguel’s answers were transcribed as he spoke and should be regarded as paraphrases of what was said, not verbatim reproductions.
1. As the lead of the Mono project, do you see Novell having immediate use for Mono?
Yes, of course, I’d say there’s use immediately in every company! A few companies have already deployed applications and
projects that are Mono based, even though it’s not 1.0 yet, but they know the risks. Mainstream deployment, however, should
really wait for 1.0 release first. By that point, we’ll have finalized our APIs and know what we’re dealing with. But it’s
definitely useful today – even Microsoft released .NET products when it was pre-1.0.
2. Do you know the future of Ximian Gnome, Red Carpet, and Evolution? Most people would agree that Evolution has become the de facto e-mail client for Linux, and Red Carpet has become a way to distribute software easily within a corporate environment. Will these packages continue to be developed by Ximian developers?
Everything will continue operating as is. They [Novell] want to learn. They want to integrate. Our products will absolutely continue to be developed. Ximian will be a business unit. But it’s exciting, because we’ll be developing slightly differently. There will be a connector for groupwise. We’ll want to be integrating the desktop with a Novell environment. But we will continue to support our products, and we will continue to support open source.
3. It’s already been suggested that Ximian’s attractiveness to Novell is the knowledge and experience reverse engineering proprietary Microsoft protocols. Many casual and business Linux users know Ximian for adding polish and UI changes to an otherwise rough interface. Do you think either one of those impressions may fade as your priorities as a Novell entity are altered?
With Connector and Evolution – you’re often talking about tools used to migrate from Windows to Linux. when there’s no
migration, though, you’re really talking about “best of breed.” Ximian simply didn’t have the resources to provide what we
ultimately wanted – without the channel it’s difficult to get your products out. It costs a lot of money, and few people
realize that. We want to bring our products to more people. Novell can offer this. To get to your question though, no – I
don’t think Ximian as you know it will change significantly.
4. What, if any, is the Ximian team’s experience with Novell products?
Some of us knew about this purchase before it happened. We had to chance to use NetWare and really learn about it.
Obviously, we’ll be getting to know them as we look to adapt their programs into ours. Red Carpet and ZEN Works, for
example. I see those two working together, down the path.
5. Will Ximian remain an independent entity or will it be absorbed into
Novell proper? Will the brand name Ximian still exist?
Obviously, long term, something will change. In the short term, however, we will continue to operate as is. We will be
known as “Novell Ximian Services” business unit. NXS. Kind of like that Australian band.
For now, our logo and name will remain.
6. Many OSNews readers see how Ximian products and developers can add value to Novell products, but few have been vocal
about value Novell can add to Ximian beyond being a financial backer. Do you see Ximian products being enriched by this
Definitely. As we discussed, one of the biggest benefits Novell brings is an immediate increase in our channels of
distribution. Their availability and name will offer us a lot. People don’t understand the big burden of open source. They
want their software to be open source, they want their software to be free. There have been discussions – Ximian is great,
but how long will it be around? So they also want a company standing behind the products. This is what we can accomplish
now. In Europe, we don’t have the same ability to distribute our product, so we have to form agreements with other
companies… Our distributions channels are limited. With Novell, we have an established name and business. We have a way
to reach more customers.
7. Novell’s on-again off-again interest in Linux is a departure from its
core business. Will Ximian developers contribute to NetWare and its
associated tools or do you expect Novell to expand further in new
There’s really no good answer for that. We were a private company, so not everybody knew about this ahead of time,
obviously. Those who knew were able to play around with NetWare and really see what it’s all about. We implemented support
for Netware connectivity in Gnome within a week. We think we can do great things here. People at Ximian are excited about
8. Nearly all Ximian tools focus on the end user. Conversely, nearly all Novell tools focus on the network. Some see
this as a match made in heaven, others see little value two such company can add to each other. Do you see any situation in
which Ximian and Novell might pursue a “Windows free network” project or do you think it more likely that Novell will stay
its course of integration into mixed environments?
Well, you have to realize that there are three parts to Red Carpet. Most people know only what is usually seen – a GUI
client. But there’s also an HTML-based interface and a command line. The second two are really meant for server use. Many
people use the Red Carpet daemon to administer software across their network – add, remove, modify. So, Ximian isn’t really
just a client-side entity. Next we want to work on integration with directory services. We really don’t have two different
9. Can you share with us any Ximian programs in which Novell has expressed an interest?
Everything. They wanted to work with us on every level. We all got together, Groupwise, Red Carpet, NetWare, Evolution,
Mono…they had interest in everything and seeing how everyone can benefit.
10. Novell has made other acquisitions in its efforts over the years to
compete with Microsoft (WordPerfect, QuattroPro) that have ended up less
than ideal for the acquired companies and their employees. How do you feel
about that and have you discussed with Novell “worst case scenarios” that
ensure Ximian’s survival if Novell’s focus shifts again at some time in the
Ah, but you’re focusing only on the negatives. Cambridge Technology Partners, I believe it’s called, Novell’s consulting
group, is successful. Don’t forget that ZENworks and Novell’s J2EE projects have also been successful. Let’s be realistic –
Sun and Microsoft have had failures too. No one is perfect. This is a different Novell. Actions performed under previous
management had different goals; going head to head with Microsoft isn’t really the motivation here – we want all of our
products to be enriched by this.
Well, thanks Miguel, I know a lot of our readers have an interest in Ximian and are very excited for you!