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New Novell chief will keep strategy intact

Novell focuses on executing its existing open source strategy as Novell's chief Messman is replaced by new CEO Ron Hovsepian.

Novell Inc. remains committed to its current open source software strategy even though the company has a new chief executive.

Novell customers learned on Thursday that longtime CEO Jack Messman was no longer running the company. He was replaced by Ron Hovsepian, president and chief operating officer of Novell since November. Hovsepian sent customers a letter in which he issued assurances that Novell would remain focused on executing its open source strategy.

That strategy, which includes selling Novell's commercial SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and the openSUSE project, should let users rest easy even as changes are made at the top, said Bernard Golden, CEO of San Carlos, Calif.-based Navica Inc.

"The investment community has been baying for this move for a while, but the interesting thing about open source is that the products have a life beyond the corporate company," Golden said.

With open source technology, even when company changes take place, the products and the source code are in the public domain for all to see and work with, Golden said. "I'm not going to say what goes on at Novell is irrelevant, but with open source, it poses much less of a risk -- and that's true of any open source company," he added.

But Hovsepian and Novell will still have its work cut out for them, especially as it readies to release an update to the SUSE desktop this July. Golden said he believed Hovsepian's background in products and sales would serve him well at the helm of the No. 2 commercial Linux vendor.

Hovspeian's background includes stints at IBM with hardware, software, sales and marketing, and Golden said he believes this would all help in driving adoption of SUSE Linux and in clarifying Novell's strategy.

But Charles King, principal analyst with Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Inc., had a different take on the shifting responsibilities at Novell.

"I think it illuminates the inherent difficulties any company faces in revitalizing itself through an acquisition; the challenges are as much cultural as technological," King said. "Linux only works as a business driver for companies that have the skills and expertise to provide value-added services and other offerings."

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