Novell pins hopes on solutions

Novell says products are a thing of the past, but NetWare 6.0 still heads the bill at this year's Brainshare jamboree

Novell is pinning all its hopes for the future on a planned transformation of its status, from "product" provider to "solutions services" source.

As Eric Schmidt put it at this week's BrainShare 2001 conference here in Salt Lake City: "We have customers who want hamburger, but we've been selling fire."

But he faced strong questioning of his strategy by analysts who feel that the planned acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners is going to cause severe channel conflict, as some of Novell's biggest consulting customers find Novell competing head to head with them for business.

Product did form the main official announcement of Eric Schmidt's valedictory speech as chief executive, before he hands over to Cambridge Technology Partners boss Jack Messman. The headline announcement was of Netware 6.0 -- to be released much later this year. But Schmidt was very anxious to downplay the product announcements, even though he had several new toys for network managers to play with.

"A key criticism of this company has been that we had these various interesting pieces of technology, but couldn't put it together," said Schmidt. In the future, he said, Novell would be looking for a new type of customer.

"The customer we're aspiring to is the traditional Novell customer's boss," he said. This executive, typically non-IT in training and outlook, is looking for "a solution sale", said Schmidt; "the solutions integrator -- the consulting company -- offers one, and this customer accepts the technology they suggest, usually without prejudice."

His thesis is that Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP) will now start selling more Novell components in their solutions. "The solutions selling component of our strategy is part of Novell; that means there is a higher likelihood that Novell will be part of the technology offered, if it is best of breed."

For complete business coverage, see ZDNet UK's Enterprise Channel.

Ten years ago, Novell was so far ahead of Microsoft in networking technology, it was frightening. Instead of getting on with it and using the advantage, it wasted time -- Guy Kewney says he'd love to see Microsoft face real competition in this market. But he's far from sure that it'll be coming from Novell. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the techTrader forum

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.