Feeds

That's enough peace - Novell sues MS just one more time

'Ransack the church' suggested in WordPerfect war

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

This week Microsoft's lead counsel stressed that the company's antitrust woes were receding into ancient history, as he tried to bounce the EU into dropping its sanctions against the company. But like the Whack A Mole game, another antitrust suit has popped up today.

Novell has sued Redmond over anti-competitive behavior relating to the WordPerfect office suite, which Novell briefly owned for a couple of years in the mid 1990s. It promises to reopen one of the bitterest periods in Microsoft's history: for Redmond's determination to rip into Novell at the time made subsequent engagements with Sun Microsystems and Netscape look gentle by comparison.

Although Novell and Redmond reached a settlement after a year of talks on Netware, with Microsoft paying Novell half a billion dollars in reparations, the two were unable to reach an agreement about the office applications. Novell alleges that Microsoft withheld technical information about Windows, integrated specific technologies to exclude WordPerfect "from relevant markets", and put the squeeze on OEMs not to bundle the suite.

Microsoft's tactics have been exhaustively documented in both the FTC's and the DoJ's antitrust cases against Microsoft. The task usually fell to Reg favorite Joachin Kempin, Microsoft's unfailingly charming OEM enforcer.

"vERY CLEAR TO ME; nO CHICAGO, NO COOPERATION, no beta, no alpha code, total war", he wrote after he discovered that AST was going to launch a line of PCs bundled with OS/2. Chicago was Microsoft's internal code name for Windows 95. A colleague made haste with the instruction: " Pls add AST to the no-ship list for Chicago & Snowball materials," he added.

(Ironically, Kempin is the only Microsoft executive to have been brought to justice: although in Joachin's case, it was for the offense of illegally shooting antelopes in Montana.)

Novell had acquired DR DOS, widely believed to be a superior product to Microsoft's MS DOS, driving down the OEM fee. Caldera assumed the right to sue Microsoft and the two settled in January 2000, with Microsoft paying Caldera around $300m.

In a typical fit of paranoia, Gates had identified Novell as the main threat to his desktop business, and the tactics discussed were as nasty as anything that subsequently emerged in the DoJ's trial. At one point in 1994, a staff toady recommended psyops tactics to Gates. "At yesterday's Exec Staff meeting you asked what else could be done to attack Novell/WP. At the Exec Retreat in Feb, I suggested that we should lock up the LDS Church [Latter Day Saints] (and BYU) [Brigham Young University] as a 100 per cent MS account. While this may not be Novell's or WP's largest account, it is certainly an emotionally and psychologically important account. Were we to own this account, we would inflict an incredible amount of FUD on the new Novell/WP. The influence of the LDS church in the Utah economy and culture is difficult to appreciate from a distance."

Novell paid around $1bn for WordPerfect and Borland's Quattro Pro, but disposed of the assets at a knock down price three years later, with WordPerfect going for $170m.

It's sometimes alleged that WordPerfect lost its share because of poor software rather than anti-competitive tactics - as if the two are mutually exclusive. The WordPerfect Corporation dominated the DOS word processing market but had botched the 1991 introduction of a Windows version with a product that was widely regarded as shoddy. But by 1995, it had licked it into shape. In truth we'll never know whether WordPerfect and Quattro could have succeeded on their merits in the marketplace: because Microsoft never allowed Novell a clean fight. ®

Related stories

Sun deputizes Versora for Microsoft attack
Why MS paid Novell half a billion bucks today
Novell fires counterblast at Ballmer Linux summary

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Whoah! How many Google Play apps want to read your texts?
Google's app permissions far too lax – security firm survey
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
OpenWRT gets native IPv6 slurping in major refresh
Also faster init and a new packages system
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.