Novell, We Hardly Knew Ye

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In the rich history of technology brands, a few tip-of-the-tongue names stand out. Of course, there are the Apples, Dells, HPs, IBMs, Microsofts and Oracles of the world. And then there’s Novell.[more]

Novell was founded in 1983 at the height of the information technology revolution — when the IBM PC was taking off, even as it was being hounded by a little computer known as the Mac. Novell’s shtick was making PCs work together in an office environment through Netware, essentially the first Local Area Network (LAN) software.

Despite the wild success of Netware, Novell eventually stumbled and tried to forge a new identity, primarily through acquisitions.

During the 1990s, the company bought Cambridge Technology Partners, SilverStream Software and SUSE, among others. The result, however, was a “Frankenstein-like company, featuring pseudo-integrated limbs and a cloudy vision,” according to Mark Schappel, a senior software analyst for The Benchmark Company, an investment advisor.

Now Novell finds itself being acquired for $2.2 billion by Attachmate, a 30-year old IT management that itself has grown by acquisitions. As part of the deal, Novell will divest itself of some $450 million worth of patents and other intellectual property to be sold to a Microsoft-led consortium.

What exactly will Attachmate do with Novell?

“This acquisition will add significant assets to our current portfolio holdings and the Novell and SUSE brands will allow us to deliver even more value to customers,” said Jeff Hawn, chairman and CEO of Attachmate Corporation. “We have great respect for Novell’s business, its employees and its commitment to customers. Moreover, we look forward to maintaining and further strengthening Novell and SUSE solutions to meet market demands.”

So another legendary technology brand bites the dust. And this one was a special kind of company in its own way. Roger Bourke White Jr., in his book Surfing the High Tech Wave: A History of Novell 1980-1990, writes: “Novell has been a place where colossal mistakes were made, where colossal achievements were forged, where some dreams flourished and others died, where lasting friendships were sealed, and where the world was transformed.”

RIP, Novell.

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