Hula Hula

Everyone on Planet GNOME is talking about Novell‘s latest efforts in the open-source arena: a brand new email and calendar server called Hula. It’s apparently based on an old Novell product called Netmail, which they’ve open-sourced and developed a hell of a lot of new ideas around. You can download this now should you wish to, but the really interesting stuff is some of the stuff they have planned.

So what’s all the fuss about? Why is Planet GNOME filled with so many people talking about this? Well, it’s more about what it says about Novell and their strategic direction than the product itself, as exciting as it does look.

Novell are talking a lot of risks at the moment, there’s no doubt about that. Amonst other things they’ve taken on a popular Linux distro, a fully-fledged Outlook clone that they’re now porting to Windows, a programming framework to rival Microsoft’s .NET and even brought out their own desktop Linux product. Most of these open-source products are competing with established proprietary alternatives that they already have out there in the marketplace.

Perhaps this is the last ditch attempt at survival from a company that’s been so hammered by its rivals over the years and seen the market share for most of its products plummet, but you’ve got to respect the people who are willing to take this many risks.

And I’m not Microsoft-bashing here. No doubt Microsoft used their trademark dodgy business practices along the way, but they killed the old Novell by producing software that basically works a hell of a lot better than anything Novell ever made. Netware, Groupwise and the rest of the old products really do suck ass, and I really quite resent the fact that we have to spend so much time coaxing them back into life at work when they break time and time again.

But the new Novell has something that they’ve never had before. They have energy, they have a determination to succeed and they’ve got guts. And as a result, they’re producing software that Works.

Just like the Mozilla Foundation did with Firefox and Thunderbird, they’re breathing new life into areas of the software ecosystem that have stagnated over recent years, to say the least.

They’re innovating, both in terms of software functionality and in terms of the development models used to produce it. And I for that reason I really do hope they succeed.