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Here's what Novell says NetWare 6 can do

And a roadmap to go with it

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Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Novell is concerned about a swathe of stories that suggest it is leaving NetWare at home while it goes out pulling with its more attractive brothers eDirectory and Single Sign-On. And so we've been treated to a rundown of what NetWare version 6 (currently in alpha) is going to be able to do. It's amazing, it can do everything.

If NetWare 6 can do what Novell says it can - and it rarely fibs - this is a lovely bit of code. It's for the high-end of the market and ties in with the One Net idea - the everything available on every device utopia. The idea is NetWare works with whatever clients you have (Win9x/NT/2000, Linux, Unix, Mac, Net) and talks to whatever servers you have (NT/2000, Unix). It will also be on friendly terms with printers, mainframes etc etc. It's the networking Babel fish.

Novell also kindly gave us a copy of its roadmap. NetWare 6 is a Q1/Q2 product for next year (we couldn't get a smaller timeframe than that), but some of the new features will be pulled into NetWare 5 with "enhancements packs" (call em EPs). No new version of 5 until beginning of Q3 next year. So we have an IP EP very soon, a file protocol EP end of the year and a Tao (eDirectory version) EP Q1 next year.

Masterplan

We've been worried about the networking company, as have its shareholders, who have seen two wobbly quarters in a row and a chunk of workers out on their ear.

It's all been part of CEO Eric Schmidt's medium-term plan (dud quarters are part of the plan? -Ed) to restructure the company and free up some more cash for a bit push on OneNet. There are two big questions here though. One, when will this big push happen? And two, when it does, will Novell really be ready?

But then all of this isn't really the point. What will make or break Novell will be its marketing (tell us something new). IT has become a mainstream issue but Novell doesn't have a mainstream brand. We were hoping that we'd be told about Novell's new super amazing marketing push - a whole new perspective, hordes of zealots swarming the streets crying out the name of our saviour, that sort of thing.

None of it. Well, to be fair, a few examples of mainstream marketing were given. Ads taken out during the UK fuel crisis - "No fuel, no problem": the idea being that you could use Novell kit to access work info from home. Also primetime US TV ad featuring goldfish stuck in bowls - they try to get into each others' bowls while David Bowie sings Changes. Eventually, they get in together and we're given the catchline "The power to change".

There have always been two problems with Novell marketing, and they're still there. It still has a split personality when it comes to who it is selling to. Brian Green, net services manager, said several times that average Joe doesn't care about the backend - the undeniable USP of NetWare is that it simply works, no bells, no whistles.

True, but what about broader perceptions? Steve Brown, UK regional director, points out that Novell is now talking to marketing managers as well as IT directors "although we need to target the people that make the relevant decisions". It would appear that a dictat from on high has yet to arrive, telling staff how exactly it is proceeding.

The other problem is that Novell simply isn't very good when it comes to selling. Boiling down a huge amount of techy info has never been its forte - but this is exactly what it will have to do if it isn't going to be swamped by Microsoft's still-ambiguous dot Net strategy. "The power to change" is, sadly, a dreadful line to base a company's future on. Also, we asked if increased marketing budgets were in the pipeline and silence confirmed our fears. So, just because we are such nice people, may we suggest some alternatives (no charge):


  • Simpler, cheaper, better
  • Wanna make the most out of the Internet? Wanna upgrade all your software? No? Well then give us a call
  • Novell. You might not know us. Sorry, we've spent too much money on technology to tell you how much better we are
  • We figured that better technology would bring you to us. We were wrong and that's why you're reading this ad
  • Our marketing boys aren't as good as Microsoft's. And we don't have as much money. But we think we're better ®

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