What Was Right--and Wrong--With Novell Brainshare

The VAR Guy

March 26, 2007

3 Min Read
What Was Right--and Wrong--With Novell Brainshare

The VAR Guy skipped last week’s Novell BrainShare event because of other pressing deadlines, but he got a comprehensive brain dump from a senior IT manager who attended. Here are some hits–and misses–from the event.

1. Spoof of Apple Macintosh Ads (Huge Hit): You know those humorous Apple TV ads (“Hello, I’m a Mac … and I’m a PC”). Novell throws in a fantastic twist, introducing Linux to the establishment. Attendees loved the ads, which are now making the rounds on YouTube. Novell should strike while the iron is hot and get those ads on CNBC to attract Wall Street investors–and Wall Street IT buyers who want to run Linux on the desktop rather than XP or Unix workstations.

2. Linux on the Desktop (Hit): In addition to the Apple ad spoofs, Novell spoke quite a bit about its thin client strategy for Linux. Smart move. Linux is a natural on thin clients.

3. Partner Support (Partial Hit): Apparently, companies like HP and AMD made nice showings at the event, offering giveaways and describing how they currently support Novell SuSE Linux. But Novell, working in combo with the OpenOffice crowd, needs a PC vendor to intro a mainstream laptop that can be the poster child for preloaded open source.

4. Microsoft Partnership (Potential Hit Amid Lots of Criticism): The VAR Guy is going out on a limb with this one. Microsoft was everywhere at BrainShare, due to the company’s Linux partnership with Novell. Plenty of open source advocates believe Novell has sold its soul to Microsoft. But maybe–just maybe–this situation is similar to Microsoft’s 1997 investment in Apple. A lot of critics (including The VAR Guy) hated that deal. But it gained Apple much-needed time and R&D money. This time around, the Microsoft-Novell deal could get Microsoft customers thinking about Novell SuSE Linux, instead of Red Hat Linux. Again, The VAR Guy doesn’t love the deal but he sees its value.

5. Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian (Hit): A lot of tech CEOs deliver conference keynotes then retreat to the corporate jet. Hovsepian stuck around to speak with IT executives and customers. He even spent about 30 minutes with my IT management pal. That doesn’t mean Hovsepian will lead Novell to the promised land. But it does suggest he’s more in touch with Novell’s customer base than former CEO Jack Messman.

6. Novell Business Claims (Miss): Careful here, Novell. Your marketing videos poke fun at Apple and Windows , and state that Linux has 30 million users. Perhaps. But only a fraction of those users are running Novell’s version of Linux. Also, your event guide states that Novell is a $1 billion company. In reality, Novell’s revenue for 2006 was $967 million. If there’s another $33 million floating around somewhere, shareholders would certainly love to see it.

7. Free SuSE For All Attendees (Big Hit): My IT management pal came home with a free copy of SuSE Linux. He’s got an Apple MacBook Pro running Mac OS X, Windows Vista and Windows XP. Next up, he plans to install and test SuSE Linux on the same system.

Can Novell gain ground on Red Hat? That’s unclear. But it’s good to see Novell moving forward with its marketing and customer messaging.

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