If organisations could feel grumpy about the past, Novell would have the blues so bad BB King should write the company anthem. Here is an outfit who owned corporate networking just at the point the market went stratospheric. Netware was to servers what Windows is to the desktop, and the company had an impeccable reputation for reliability and performance in an area where nothing else mattered. And they threw it all away.
It's an open secret that while Microsoft was going through its early and none too impressive experiments with networking -- Windows for Workgroups, anyone? -- it lived in fear of Novell waking up and sniffing the packets. But as the 90s wore on and the Redmond boys slowly got it right, the sleeping Utah giant stayed firmly beneath the duvet.
Then there was the Internet, which seemingly fell out of the empty sky like the Close Encounters mothership. Everyone rushed up and clambered to get aboard. Some got crushed in the panic, but Novell managed to pummel itself into the ground in a series of remarkably stupid moves, producing and withdrawing Web server products seemingly at whim. This was in keeping with the company's policy of acquisition: buying in things that seemed like a good idea at the time -- like Unix -- and failing to do anything with them except confuse the customers and lose another Salt Lakeful of dosh.
That was then. In buying SuSE Linux, Novell might be forgiven for being rather pleased with itself. A mature, well-respected, open-source distribution backed up with Novell's support and sales network seems like a good deal. Just the sort of solid base with which to create a 21st century networking company. What could go possibly happen? Madness, that's what -- but this time not of their making.
It's a fair bet they didn't expect a lawsuit from SCO. Yet here it is -- or rather, in keeping with that company's policy of driving into town and waving its shooters about, here's the threat. As part of its mid-90s, er, strategy, Novell sold Unix to SCO and included a non-competition clause in the contract. Since SCO claims that Linux is full of SCO's Unix-based intellectual property, it would seem entirely logical that any attempt by Novell to sell it would be ipso facto directly competitive. So, says SCO, once the deal goes through Novell should expect a hefty writ.