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LinuxWorld Novell's chief executive has justified his company's contentious Microsoft hook-up to open source devotees by claiming the deal is critical to the long-term success of their favorite operating system.

Ron Hovsepian today, during a speech, warned LinuxWorld attendees against complacency over Linux's perceived success in both market share and partner support. He claimed Linux has not yet reached its potential, and is - in fact - at a tipping point.

Linux can only reach its potential by working with Microsoft and proprietary code, and by getting more applications running on different Linux distributions.

Despite nearly a decade of success for Linux, one fundamental issue has not been solved by the community: helping ISVs overcome the expense and time needed to port applications to different distributions that use different APIs and packages.

To that end, Hovsepian called for a re-doubling of efforts to standardize the way ISVs certify software using a vendor-neutral process. "Certification is not transferable across distributions... the risk we have is we are going to fragment the ISVs," Hovsepian said.

"We need to take advantage of what the Linux Standard Base has already built... I don't want us to create more oversight bodies."

It was a performance that saw Hovsepian call Microsoft a reality the community must work with while also flattering two of the staunchest critics of his deal with Microsoft - the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its chief lawyer Eben Moglen - for creating the thing they believe his deal violates: the GPL.

Acknowledging there'd been a "lot of hot conversation" with Moglen and the FSF, Hovsepian said "Linux would not be where it is today" without the GPL. He also committed to Novell shipping new SuSE Linux packages under GPL v3.

That "hot conversation" was fueled by the FSF's claims it's engineered GPL3 to nullify Novell's Microsoft deal. Microsoft, meanwhile, has bluntly refused to recognize it's bound by the GPL.

Skimming over the details of Microsoft's support, Hovespian said such deals are critical if Linux is going to give customers running mixed environments what they need, by delivering interoperability in the data center and on the desktop.

"Microsoft is a reality in that mixed source world. The acceptance of mixed source by all of us is going to be a critical part of long-term success," he said.

"Linux should be everywhere," Hovsepian said. "But we are not truly there yet and I don't want us to fall asleep at this point in time.

"If we truly believe Linux is going to ever replace Unix and has the potential to replace the desktop of Windows, we have work to do it. If Linux is to realize its place as the dominant platform then we need to improve our progress as a team."®

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