Ex-Microsoft exec to grow Linux in South Africa

By   |  September 22, 2004

Novell South Africa yesterday announced it has appointed ex-Microsoft employee Garry Hodgson as its OEM Business Development manager. Hodgson during his time at Microsoft was a key architect of the company\’s Windows 95 OEM strategy which established the company as the dominant player in the software market in South Africa. Hodgson was also the driver of Microsoft\’s programme to offer all schools in South Africa with free software. Hodgson left Microsoft 18 months to establish the Digital Hope Foundation with the idea of providing communities and schools with low-cost access to computing technology.

Novell MD Stafford Masie said the company intends to deliver Linux to end users through a channel that Hodgson and his team are already in the process of developing. Masie said they intend to have pre-installed Linux PCs on the shelves of major retailers within the next month. And he said all of the key distributors and systems builders already had access to the SuSE Linux software and most had already signed up to distribute PCs with certified SuSE Linux installed.

For consumers this means that by Christmas time in South Africa they will be able to purchase Linux pre-installed PCs at PC retailers as well as major general retailers. \”The response from the systems builders and retailers has been overwhelming,\” said Masie. \”No-one has said no and we have already signed up half of them.\”

\”Our intention is to offer consumers a choice,\” he said. \”They can either buy a PC and pay R3000 to R4000 for the proprietary software. Or they can buy the same PC with the open source software which will only cost around R500 and will include every application they could ever want.\”

\”We want to drop the cost of software for end users to just 10% of where it is now,\” he said. \”Which is where it should already be.\”

Hodgson said that one of the key lessons learned at Microsoft was \”how important the system builder channel is.\” He said the Novell OEM strategy will be centred on this sector of the market and that Novell has already staged a road show to meet systems builders across the country and introduce them to SuSE Linux and teach them how to install and maintain the software. Of the currently estimated one million PCs in South Africa, around 60% of those are local brands built in South Africa. It was these that the Novell OEM team signed up first, said Hodgson. They include companies such as Rectron, Mustek and Pinnacle Micro. Hodgson also expects to sign up companies representing international brands such as Acer and Fujitsu Siemens.

\”We intend to take what is good from the Microsoft OEM programme and use that,\” said Hodgson. This includes signing up distributors such as Workgroup and Axis as well as including royalty reporting which allows distributors to have product in stock all the time and only having to pay for copies sold. Local manufacture of the CDs will be done by Bowline.

Where things aren\’t working so well for Microsoft, Hodgson said, they intend to improve the model. This includes allowing for royalty reporting in local currency as opposed to dollars to minimise exchange rate fluctuations. He said they will also be including the smaller systems builders in the OEM programme which accounts for a significant portion of the market.

Call centre support

Novell SA also yesterday announced the launch of its nationwide Linux support call centre. The call centre (interview here) will be run by Choice Sourcing and will provide Linux support for both Novell SuSE Linux clients as well as for other Linux users. Choice Sourcing, which provides outsourced call centre services, initially entered the market in South Africa by providing technical support call centre services for Microsoft.

Alek Zdziarski, director at Choice Sourcing, said the support services offered will range from OpenOffice.org users on Windows through to Linux-based datacentres. Initially the support centre will only support Linux enquiries but may well be extended to provide broader Novell support as well.

Zdziarski said the call centre will offer two types of support: one for customers of Novell or clients with support contracts; and the other for end users who purchase the SuSE Linux OEM package. For Novell clients or support contract holders a call to 0861-NOVELL will be free of charge. Customers without a support contract can call 0861-SUSEOS which is a premium rate call charged at R3,61 minute.

Zdziarski said the training of support centre staff was already well underway and the roll-out of the Linux Support Centre services would be done in tandem with the OEM programme.

Comments

One Response to “Ex-Microsoft exec to grow Linux in South Africa”

  1. Andrew Cooks
    September 22nd, 2004 @ 12:00 am

    These are not the friendly Linux enthusiasts they\’re pretending to be. These are people who want to be the middle-man. They want to impose a tax on anything related to Open Source and Linux and establish the SuSe brand as the only real Linux.

    Hopefully their branding is not strong enough to corner the whole market, but unless a competitor steps up, I can see South Africa entering a new era of OS monopoly.

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