Feeds

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

'Ransack the church' suggested in WordPerfect war

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Post-Microsoft, post-PC programming: The portable REVOLUTION
Code jockeys: count up and grab your fabulous tablets
Twitter App Graph exposes smartphone spyware feature
You don't want everyone to compile app lists from your fondleware? BAD LUCK
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.