Cool Solutions

Novell in BusinessWeek


October 21, 2005 3:42 pm





There’s a feature story in the print edition of BusinessWeek this week on Novell. It’s not online yet, so I can’t provide a URL. The piece echoes recent criticism of Novell from elements in the financial community, but also credits the company’s strategy and highlights the importance of Novell’s success to broader Linux success. My take on the bottom line of the story: The company continues to face challenges in its transition to open source and open standards, but the game isn’t over, and Novell can succeed. Regardless of your take on the substance of the article, the fact that Novell is featured in a BusinessWeek story is, in itself, significant. It reflects Novell’s return to relevance in the IT sector. BusinessWeek wouldn’t write about us if we didn’t matter. If someone has said in 2002 that BusinessWeek would be writing a story on Novell in 2005, crediting our strategy and linking our future success as critical to an important industry trend like open source, most observers would have laughed. We have made strides – big ones. We know there’s more to do. We want to make the next BusinessWeek story one about the success of Novell’s transition.

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Categories: Expert Views, General, PR Blog


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  1. By:no

    Bruce, you truly are a PR guy, believing your own bullshit.

  2. By:Anonymous

    I don’t deny I’m a PR guy. But I also stand by my thinking that, if we’re irrelevant, BusinessWeek isn’t writing about us. Why would they? I guess we can agree to disagree.

  3. By:George

    I understand that it’s your job to put the best face on things and right now your task isn’t an enviable one. I think the following excerpt more accurately reflects the general perception of the situation. It’s a posting from silicon investor’s Novell message board by an individual who claims to be a former Novell employee:
    ‘Yes, lame but true. I am a long time ex-sales guy at Novell. Stone was not only
    the technical guy, but sales loved him. He could tell a vision, answer all the
    technical questions and then close the deal. When he worked for Novell in 1997, Eric Schmidt would introduce him as the “guy smarter than I am” driving the strategy. While Eric was the PR machine, Stone was pushing Directories and Identity management… 7 years ago. When Stone was there the first time, the stock went from $6 to $40. When he came back in 02, it went from $1.50 to $14. He drove the move to Linux *and* Identity services….and everyone knows it, including wall street. Back in 1990, he was the guy that pioneered what we know
    today as web services and SOA (it was called CORBA back then). It’s criminal that Novell lets a guy like this go because of an old man’s insecurity.’

  4. By:Anonymous

    I’ve been at Novell for over 6 years, so I know Chris. I like Chris and he was great to work with. Nobody is denying that Chris was involved in developing the Linux strategy. Or Alan Nugent. Or a number of other folks at Novell, for that matter. For a transition this significant, you’d expect that to be the case. But the bottom line is that the buck stops with the CEO. He’s the guy that ultimately makes the decisions – on strategy, on business model, on personnel. He’s the one that takes the heat when the heat comes. Nobody is faulting Novell’s strategy to move to open source and open standards. So Jack, Chris, and anyone else involved in that should be proud. But to attempt to completely write Jack out of the picture in developing Novell’s Linux strategy, as some critics seem to want to do, just doesn’t reflect the reality of how a significant strategic transition like this works in a corporate environment.

    The other concern I have with much of the conversation around this issue is the claim that, because of the departures of Chris and Alan, Novell has no real Linux expertise or ability to look at open source strategically. This just isn’t true. David Patrick, who’s running our Linux business, was hired by Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman to run Ximian. Miguel and Nat, of course, two extremely well respected individuals in the community, are here at Novell. Markus Rex, one of the technology and business leaders of SUSE LINUX AG, sits on our executive committee. There are strong executives with strong Linux credentials at Novell.

  5. By:george

    Your right – the buck stops with the CEO. Novell’s lost Linux market share since acquiring SUSE. Revenues continue to erode.
    Many respected high-profile people have left.
    It seems that many recent policies such as the share buy-back or the rumored impending employee purge are pressed on Novell by Wall Street rather than initiated from within; it seems that strategic decisions are being made for Novell rather than by Novell. The firm’s declined from #2 in the industry to #50.
    The quarter’s up in 1 week. Saying ‘Be patient’ wont wash; Novell’s been announcing turn-arounds for a decade, and has dissipated billions of shareholder wealth on investments (what is it, 2.4 billion?) that so far have yielded nothing.
    It’s show time, or else I suspect that Tudor et. al. will soon reveal what they’re up to.
    I’d rather be proven wrong and see Novell and Mr. Messman succeed; I am a shareholder.
    But I suspect it wont play out that way.

  6. By:George

    Mr. Messman has taken a constructive step in responding to Novell’s critics by appointing Mr. Hovsepian as his #2. However this invites a new concern, which BusinessWeek Online articulated yesterday (November 01, 2005
    ‘How to Save Your Neck in a Four Easy Steps’)
    “If Hovsepian continues to get credit for what goes right at Novell, it will be interesting to see how long the arrangement lasts. Its reminiscent of Messmans confrontational relationship with former Novell vice chairman Chris Stone who was forced out in 2004. Stone was often credited as the author of Novells Linux strategy, and insiders say that irked Messman. When I interviewed him, I asked a lot of tough questions. And the only thing to get a rise out of him was the idea that Stone authored the Linux strategy. Chris was a great personal PR guy, he said.

    Far from ancient history, Messmans detractors have cited Stones departure again and again as a sign that Messman wont share the top spot.”
    Infoworld says virtually the same thing:
    ‘Novell could use a kick in the pants right now and it just doesn’t seem Messman has enough momentum…
    The real question is if Messman will be able to handle Hovsepian as the new number 2 or if will it end up like Chris Stone. “

    – Since the new managerial arrangement appears to mirror the earlier one, the press seems to feel that it has the same weaknesses. What confidence can we have that Mr. Messman will now be more gracious in allowing others to enjoy the recognition their merits earn them?

  7. By:Anonymous

    Ron is highly regarded. Most of the financial and press commentary I’ve seen around Ron’s appointment is positive. BusinessWeek has chosen to focus on the Chris Stone issue, for whatever reasons. The company has moved on. Ron has proven himself, restoring North America to profitability. Not surprisingly, given this success, he’s been given increasingly important roles in the company. This is good for Novell.

  8. By:George

    How Mr. Hovsepian is regarded is not germane. What’s good for Novell is not germane.
    Wether Novell’s CEO is willing to delegate authority, accept a diminuition of his own role, and accept the fact that if Novell succeeds, the acclaim will in large part go to others is a legitimate question, given the CEO’s history with talented subordinates.

    If this delegation to Mr. Hovsepian was voluntary I’d have more confidence in it, but since it appears to be part of a coordinated response to ultimatums imposed by the financial community, I think the question’s a fair and legitimate one. Assuming you’re right and Mr. Hovsepian is good for Novell, history implies that that would be bad for Mr. Hovsepian.

  9. By:George

    I see that Mr. Hovsepian had the same concerns that I did: ‘Novell Inc. has amended the terms of Ronald Hovsepian’s golden parachute to award him as much as $1.5 million should he not assume the CEO post.’
    11/3/05 3:38 P.M. EST