Chris Stone, founder of the Object Management Group, is a key member of the team brought in by Novell CEO Eric Schmidt as VP for strategy and corporate development. He talks to PC Dealer about the changes he has made.
When you arrived at Novell six months ago, what was the first thing you did?
The first couple of days I spent most of my time in development. Walking around talking to people, seeing the products, trying to figure out how everything worked. Then I spent a long time talking to customers, and a considerable amount of time with developer support, looking at the interface to the developer community - figuring out what was wrong or good or bad. Once I was comfortable with that, I started changing things.
What did Schmidt want you to do? What were your priorities?
The basic priority was: we need a strategy, for technology as well as business. The second was: we need to place more emphasis on the developer community. We need partnerships, relationships, friendships with other people, including Microsoft. And we need a good internet strategy. These were the four big items I had to fix. And that is what I've been fixing.
So how close are you to reaching these goals?
From a strategic perspective, the number one priority was to get the company around a single message. A strategy we can all endorse. I think we've done that with the Netware intelligent network server and with the way our products fit around it. We're now driving that message into the company as well to the outside world.
The second thing we've rolled out is a brand new view of developers - give away source code. Release APIs. You know, feed developers. Give them more. So that is a serious change from the old Novell.
And the third thing that has had a great impact is our redirection of Novonyx, which used to be a separate company. It's now very much a piece of Novell, 90 per cent owned by Novell, 10 per cent by Netscape. And the Web servers are an integral part of our strategy.
Historically, Novell hasn't been successful in promoting Netware as a platform for developing applications.
Why didn't you ever manage to get developers to address the platform, and why do you think it will work this time around?
It has been a company run by people who didn't have a clue about what a developer was, and had never written a piece of code in their life.
They probably never talked to developers in any serious way. Eric and I understand it. So we just do it - it's that easy. I know what developers want. I look around for all the source code we have available in the building.
I know what we can give away, and what we can't. I just tell them this is what we want to give away, and this is what we don't.
At various times in Novell's past, it looked like the company didn't consider Netware to be an application server platform.
It wasn't a platform that was very attractive to the developer. Now, from an application perspective, what we're trying to get people to do is write networking-based applications, or network-aware, internet-aware applications. Providing new compilers, new development environments, specifically taking advantage of NDS is really what I'm after.
But aren't you confusing the developers by stressing that Netware 5 has a JVM built in, by positioning it as a Java server?
No. Java is longer term. It always takes longer than anybody thinks it's going to take. So the whole Java server strategy that Eric and I have laid out is a long-term bet. But we want to make sure the JVM, the Java server and the apps to take advantage of it are all there when, and if, it hits; when and if it becomes popular. We're betting that it will. But it's not a fundamental component of our strategy at this point that is going to make or break the company.
Are Netware loadable modules (NLMs) going to be around for the long term?
Sure. They'll never die. Just like PL1 didn't die either. I mean, there are thousands of NLM apps and utilities, from integers and strings up to sophisticated applications that we just can't alienate. We've tested every NLM with Netware 5 to make sure they'll run.
How anxious are you about people buying Netware 5? Netware 4 didn't prove to be a great success.
There are a couple of reasons people didn't buy Netware 4. As a user of Netware 4, I gave up because I couldn't install it. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I gave up. I couldn't do it. So I waited for 4.11.
I don't think we're going to make the same mistake. Netware 4 wasn't even beta tested. Netware 5's beta test will be a full six months, maybe more. That's a good thing. Hundreds of thousands of people are banging on it, whereas I don't think anybody ever tested Netware 4, except engineers.
Also, people want to use Netware for the Net. They want native IP, real memory management. So there are many more reasons now to move to Netware 5 than there were to move to Netware 4.
You said it was important for Novell to be friends with Microsoft.
We're having lots of discussions, and we may license some technology from it. We are working on bundling Internet Explorer with Netware, and also on some tools and directory issues. The nice part is that we're talking to, and not screaming at, each other. We're having good arguments.
We're going to try and work with it as best we can.
Do you see any risk that Netware will get squeezed between NT coming from the low end and a reviving Unix at the high end?
I don't see Unix in a revival. Do you?
Well, there are some signs.
I don't think so. I think over the next few years it's going to be Netware, NT and a Unix - not 'Unix'. And that Unix will probably be by Solaris and maybe AIX - and that's about it. I think the others are going to start to trail off.
I think Hewlett Packard is going to be dedicated to NT and will probably promote it more than HP/UX. So from my perspective, I think there's an opportunity for us to be, to continue to be, the largest networking platform.
The entire market is growing, and as the market grows, we grow.
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