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Novell unleashes NDS for everyone via free email system

Give it away and we can out-directory MS, thinks Schmidt

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Novell has quietly made its play to take directory services to the masses, opening up an NDS-based free email service at myrealbox.com yesterday. We don't of course need yet another free email service, but Novell is banking on NDS as the system's unique selling point. And if it succeeds, of course, it'll be one more step in the company's (so far rather promising-looking) campaign to make NDS the industry standard, and head off the impending challenge from Microsoft. Novell CEO Eric Schmidt talked a little about the new service last month at Citrix iForum. Yesterday's unveiling was of "a production site on the net where you as end user store your information and credentials." Note that this is a far bigger play than simply a free email service, because Schmidt is envisaging a future where credentials, bookmarks, address books and all sorts of other personal data (including desktop settings) are stored for you. So where today it's possible to just walk up to any device that has a browser and pick up your email, Novell's system will ultimately extend to giving you access to all of your stuff, from any device, anywhere. This is of course what NDS is intended to do in the corporate environment, so you could look at myrealbox.com as being the beginnings of NDS for the masses. "Directory-based technologies represent the most high level revolution," said Schmidt. Finally we have the underlying infrastructure to make all this happen." In his presentation, Schmidt also happened to slip in a giant signpost to somewhere else related Novell was going. He made a point of referring to the forthcoming "high capacity digital wireless system taking off under the GSM umbrella," and this of course is Europe's UMTS, 3G broadband wireless. Wireless is a logical place for Novell to be going, as it uses NDS to barrel down a road that abolishes both desktops and personal hardware (if you can get the settings remotely, any hardware does). Users of next generation wireless communicators and smartphones could use myrealbox.com or equivalent for this kind of access, but it would also be logical for Novell to pitch NDS to the network providers, who could then offer more tailored systems to their customers. If Eric has heard of UMTS and knows enough to be scathing about US 3G efforts (which he does), Novell is going to do this - trust us. But what about myrealbox.com? It offers access from anywhere, from a browser and a range of email clients, and you can use it to pick up mail from multiple email accounts. That's handy for the user, but vitally important for Novell, because for the directory model to work users have to be induced to start merging in their settings, bookmarks etc from the multiple computers and devices they're currently stored on. It also promises no advertising (Novell has bigger fish to fry here) and no spam (tricky, but we'll see). One sales point Novell doesn't make, but which occurs to The Register (shame on us) is the trust/security aspect. When we think of the possibility of, say, Microsoft, storing our settings, personal data and so on the words "hot needles" and "eyes" spring to mind. But the good, god-fearing folks from Utah? Even though it's now led by some geek from Sun, Novell still has lots of cred in this department. ®

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