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LAS VEGAS—No doubt, the attendees at the SCO Forum conference here and at the LinuxWorld show in San Francisco couldn’t be further apart in their viewpoints of Unix operating systems. But when it comes to the notion of Sun Microsystems Inc. buying Novell Inc., they appeared to have one reaction in common: disbelief.

The news that Sun President Jonathan Schwartz had casually floated the idea of Sun purchasing Novell to the press, left IT professionals flabbergasted.

“They’re doing what?” wondered Rhona Florella, marketing manager at Maxspeed Corp., a thin-client vendor from Palo Alto, Calif. Her bewilderment was the most common reaction expressed at both shows.

However, David Link, vice president of product development for Open Systems Inc., an accounting software ISV for both the Unix and Linux platforms, asked if Sun didn’t have enough trouble.

“Maybe Sun sees that Novell’s strategy has real strength with its combining of its NetWare functionality on its new Linux platform. Perhaps, they want to hedge on Solaris?” speculated Link.

“Sun already has JDS [Java Desktop System] and they had—until they started messing with them—a good partnership with Red Hat,” Tom Petrigliano said. The vice president of DTR Business Systems Inc., a large Unix integrator and distributor, has trouble with the proposed buyout. “I just don’t see any sense to this move.”

Another attendee at SCO Forum, the CEO of a system vendor, asked, “Doesn’t Sun have something better to spend their Microsoft settlement money on?”

“Still,” he added, “I guess it would help [The SCO Group Inc.]. Since Sun has licensed Unix from them, could you see them continuing Novell’s [Unix] copyright case?”

Meanwhile, Rene Beltran, director of sales and marketing for DTR, can’t understand the deal. “What would [Sun] do with it? From where we sit, one of Novell’s best points is its strong reseller channel and Sun has burned their reseller channel.”

“Their corporate cultures are so different too,” Beltran continued. “Sun has always been about proprietary hardware and Novell has always worked with open architectures.”

One Unix reseller who requested anonymity and who had no affection for the Linux market, suggested that perhaps all Sun was trying to do was to spread FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt—about Linux.

“You look at the way they treat Red Hat, and now they’re playing games with Novell to steal thunder from SuSE Linux. Sun has always played games,” he said. “They even do it with groups inside their own company. Look at the ways they’ve jerked about Solaris on Intel and, oh, we’re going to open-source this, or maybe that.”

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