May 25, 2004

The end days of Ximian?

Author: Joe Barr

When Novell made its surprise announcement last week that Ximian Connector was being released under the free software GPL license, I began to wonder if it marked the end of the Ximian era. Connector, after all, was the centerpiece of the Ximian strategy to make inroads into the corporate desktop market by providing full compatibility with the widely used Microsoft Exchange mail server. The answer? Novell giveth and Novell taketh away. Updated

Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedmann founded the firm as Helix Code in October of 1999. I've always taken a personal interest in following the company because I had run into Nat and Miguel at the Computer Museum in San Jose during LinuxWorld just a couple of months earlier, probably interrupting a brainstorming session as the two hatched their plans.

A name change was forced on them after it was discovered someone else was already using the Helix name. They became Ximian and the Ximian desktop became the pièce de résistance for Linux on the desktop. I came to dread the interval between the release of a new version of whatever distribution I was running at the time and the release of a new version of Ximian to match it.

How Ximian managed to survive the dot-com crash and the hard-times economy we've been in ever since I don't know, but survive they did. They even remained attractive enough to be acquired by Novell last year a few months ahead of Novell's purchase of SUSE.

Charlie Ungashick, director of product management and marketing for Novell's Linux offerings, was kind enough to address my questions about the fate of Ximian following the free Connector announcement.

I asked if the recent announcement of the open sourcing of the Connector
code mark the end of Ximian as a commercial entity. Charlie replied:

No. Ximian Desktop 2 and Ximian Red Carpet Enterprise are still in the
market as Novell products. The Ximian name will continue to exist as a
Novell brand. Novell will, however, be considering how best to position
and brand future Novell, SUSE Linux, and Ximian products.

My second question was "Will there ever be a Ximian desktop for
SUSE 9.1?" Here is his answer:

No. We are focusing our development efforts around an integrated Linux
desktop which includes the best of SUSE Linux and Ximian Desktop. The
new desktop OS offering, code named "Sundance," will be coming in beta
soon. It includes GNOME 2.6 (from Ximian), KDE 3.2, Evolution 2.0,
Novell's Edition of OpenOffice.org 1.1.1, unique resource management
capabilities, and a highly compelling application migration/development
layer. It's also the first desktop to take advantage of kernel 2.6,
which gives users faster boot times, better hardware compatibility, and
snappier desktop application performance.

Those development efforts, by the way, are consuming all of Nat's time these days. We hope to get a review copy of the beta as soon as it is stable enough to be seen outside Novell.

Update: Novell has clarified their response about a forthcoming Ximian desktop for SUSE. There will be one, but it won't be Ximian Desktop 2, and it will include more than just Ximian.

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