Worst tech mergers and acquisitions: Novell and Unix, Borland and Ashton-Tate

A corporate merger, like a marriage, can yield a whole stronger than its parts -- or it can end in utter disaster. We countdown the worst corporate romances in IT history.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Corporate mergers - like marriages - can result in the whole being stronger than its parts -- or they can end in utter disaster. The IT industry has suffered its share of disastrous marriages. Here are the worst of the worst. (Previously: Facebook and Instragram)

12. Novell & UNIX

In 1991, if you were running a personal computer network in your business or enterprise, there was a good chance it was running on Novell's NetWare, which was the predominant server-based network operating system at the time.

Released in both 16-bit and 32-bit versions for the 286 and 386 Intel processors, 1990's era NetWare ran on a proprietary protocol called IPX, which ran on Local Area Networks using Ethernet, Arcnet or IBM Token-Ring topologies.

NetWare was known for its excellent network performance, server reliability, fault tolerance and OS stability, as well as its relatively easy administration, which helped it maintain its market position for many years.

Novell had several competitors in the space, such as IBM OS/2 LAN Manager and Banyan-Vines, but none of them were ever as popular as the NetWare stack. However, with the release of Microsoft's Windows for Workgroups 3.1 in 1992 and Windows NT operating system in the summer of 1993, companies quickly began to shift to a fully integrated, single-vendor Client and Server OS solution for their networks.

To maintain relevancy in the network operating system space, in 1991 Novell entered a partnership with AT&T's Bell Unix Systems Laboratories (USL) to produce a "SuperNOS", that would combine the network protocols of Netware with the power of the UNIX operating system.

The partnership, called Univel, resulted in USL being purchased by Novell in 1993 and the release of the UnixWare operating system.

UnixWare at Novell was a complete dud. In 1995, Novell sold the operating system to SCO. However, the exact terms of the transaction were not fully determined until 2011, when it was ruled by the US Court of Appeals for the tenth circuit that despite SCO's ownership of the UnixWare operating system itself, the UNIX copyrights still belonged to Novell.

In addition to the failed UnixWare partnership, in June of 1994, Novell looked to enter the office productivity software space by purchasing WordPerfect Corporation. That marriage lasted a whole two years, and the WordPerfect company's assets were sold off to Corel in January of 1996.

The legacy Novell NetWare operating system continued to be developed until 2003, where it was superseded by Open Enterprise Server (OES) a network operating system which runs on top of Linux.

In November of 2010, Novell was acquired by Attachmate, for $1 Billion.

11. Borland & Ashton Tate

Ashton-Tate's flagship product, dBase, was the first widely-used database management system (DBMS) for PCs.

Before Visual Studio, there was Borland, which was the world's leading vendor of computer programming languages for personal computers. Its flagship programming environment in 1990 and 1991, Borland Turbo C++, is shown above. Borland also produced Turbo Pascal as well as Turbo Assembler, as well as a relational database product, Paradox, which competed with Ashton-Tate's dBase.

While the name is virtually unknown today, Ashton-Tate was a prosperous software company in its day. Its flagship product, dBase, was the first widely-used database management system (DBMS) for PCs. Like Lotus 1-2-3, it was a character-mode app.

dBase was a hierarchical database, in that it organized data in a tree-like structure. Prior to the introduction of PC databases such as Borland's Paradox, Clipper, FoxPro and Microsoft Access which introduced relational database capability into their products, dBase was considered to be one of the most important and popular productivity apps.

Numerous clones of dBase, known collectively as "xBase" were all over the market.

In 1991, Ashton-Tate merged with Borland, just as the industry was starting to move to Microsoft Access, Visual FoxPro and SQL-based systems using client-server technology.

In the mid 1990s, Borland quickly found itself in competition with Microsoft's Visual C++. Access and Visual Basic products which started to become popular, and as a result of Microsoft's dominance in the software development toolset space, the company's products lost considerable market share. Borland eventually renamed itself to Inprise, sold off a number of its software product assets, renamed itself as Borland again, to eventually be acquired as a subsidiary of Micro Focus in 2009.

Next up, even worse: #10 and #9

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