A Novel(l) Situation: Part II

What”s in a name? Well, nothing and
everything. This was realized recently by Novell Inc., still the world”s largest NOS
vendor. The company”s flagship product, its source of bread and butter, NetWare, which
became intraNetWare, is now again NetWare. These different avatars of the good ol” NetWare
are now culminating into a package bundled with the browser and other value-adds from
partner Netscape.

NetWare has been a foghorn of Novell, ever
since networking for PCs got invented. And the amount of mindshare-as well as
marketshare-that it garnered in an era of Unix revolution, was obviously applaudable. Then
in mid-nineties came the huge concept-cum-reality called Internet. Novell was equally
confused as were the other software vendors, but the company chose to remain
non-committal. And then it was realized that it is not Internet, but intranet, which is
the huge business opportunity.

Novell, whose engineer was credited with
the coining of the name, intranet, came up with a product, IntranetWare-which was nothing
but another version of NetWare with intranet/Internet capabilities. Through this venture,
the company announced its arrival in the intranet age. But, the story has a twist here.
While on one hand it found that it was the only one to rename its flagship product, it was
also left with a huge customer base-confused between networking and intranet, and NetWare
and intraNetWare. By that time, Windows NT had established itself as not only a networking
product but also an intranet product.

Having realized its folly of tampering with
the name of its flagship product, which was perceived as different from NetWare, the next
version has been renamed as NetWare 5. The second beta of this product has been delivered
recently, with enhancements that include bundling of Netscape FastTrack Server, Netscape
Communicator, besides the famous Novell Directory Services (NDS). The full and final
version of NetWare 5 is expected to be released by mid-1998.

What happened was Novell couldn”t grow out
of the brand equity of NetWare in a self-defined short period of time. And intraNetWare
couldn”t be established as a competent product in itself. Hence users couldn”t associate
much importance to an upgrade which spelt out more about the additional features rather
than the functionality of the complete product itself.

A Microsoft Act
Now Novell is doing a Microsoft act by bundling Netscape Communicator into NetWare 5. In
fact, the company plans to be one up against Microsoft by incorporating Netscape FastTrack
Server, providing users with Web publishing features. The only difference is that the
products are from different vendors, as opposed to Internet Explorer and Windows OS being
from the same stable.

Novell is betting a lot on the current
version. What will be interesting to observe is how Novell takes on Bill Gates and
Microsoft with the reborn NetWare-and regain its lost glory in the process. And the NOS
heavyweight still has a large customer base, if one goes by the claims made by the
company. As John Slitz, Sr VP (Marketing), puts it, NetWare has about 77 million
customers. Also, the company web site describes NetWare 5 beta 2 as the arrival of ”Elvis”
limo”. Let”s see what happens when Elvis emerges from the limo-if it creates the same
euphoria!

SIVAKUMAR V,
in Delhi.

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