Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce SUSE now and in the future: Hubert Mantel speaks

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How much focus is there on the enterprise desktop these days? Do you think  that is a market in which one make money in Europe? Or is it only South  American countries - Brazil, for example - which are good markets?

My personal feeling is that the era of the PC (and so of the desktop as well) is slowly coming to an end. People are increasingly using tablets or smartphones for just accessing remote appliances; data is being stored in the cloud. So the desktop is becoming more and more irrelevant. In the long run you probably do not need very much more than an internet browser.

How much has the culture of SUSE changed from what it was when you were there at the start? Are you trying to recreate that mood so that the enthusiasm present at that time - before you were acquired by Novell - returns?

Working in a start-up always differs very much from working in a big company with thousands of employees. Both worlds have their pros and cons. When we were small, we were very agile and flexible; nowadays there is more process and regulation. But I do understand that we need well-defined processes and proper documentation in order to provide our customers the quality level of support and services they need and pay for.

What I really loved about our start-up times was the lack of hierarchy and the incredible efficiency: we all pulled together, everybody knew what he had to do, so we did not need a boss. In fact, it was quite hard to find team leaders when we reached a certain size, because everybody just wanted to continue hacking instead of doing boring paper work and other administrative tasks.

But these were special times (the infamous internet rush end of the nineties) in a special company. Even nowadays, SUSE is a great place to work. I wanted to make my hobby my profession and succeeded. So I'm quite happy :)

Do you still have the chance to get your fingers into code these days? Or have you moved on altogether?

I'm still hacking on code. This is what I always wanted to do since I had my first contact with computers back in 1977. I left the management already in 1999 in favor of being able to work as an engineer. There are better managers than me :)

Twenty years is a long time in the computer industry where 18 months is considered a lifetime. Can you cast your mind back to the way things were when you first started hacking on Linux and how they are now?

It is extremely interesting how things have evolved in the past two decades. The motto of Linus Torvalds and Linux has been: "World domination. Now!" I think Linux has reached this goal albeit in a different way than we initially thought. Computers are ubiquitous, as is Linux. Most people probably do not even know that they are using Linux every day in various ways: The DSL modem is running Linux, the switches, the WLAN access points and even many TV sets. Whenever you access some web server, chances are very high the pages are delivered by a Linux system. And with Android, most smartphones are running Linux as well. With computers and the internet being such an important part of modern life, I think it is very good that big parts of the infrastructure are open and not in control of a single company that tries to lock in customers in order to maximize its profit.

No interview with someone from SUSE is complete without a question about  Microsoft, so here goes. What do you see as the positives from the deal struck with Microsoft in 2006? What are the negatives?

You probably know Gandhi's famous quote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

For me, the deal with Microsoft meant that Linux has won. It was the proof that "they" no longer could ignore Linux; it was there and it was to stay. We just had arrived in the computer industry. And we played a role significant enough that a company like Microsoft would see it as advantageous to cooperate with us.

The negatives were mainly on the emotional side. For many Linux enthusiasts, Microsoft just was the "evil empire" and signing a contract with them was perceived as betrayal. But like in real politics, you have to make a compromise once and then if you want to advance.

And finally, what distribution do you use on your workstation/laptop?

openSUSE 11.4 and 12.1 on all my computers. Android on my tablet :)


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.