Microsoft Talks Back
In a statement released Friday, Microsoft disputed those assertions, saying that Novell is using the lawsuit to blame Microsoft "for its own mismanagement and poor business decisions. The record is clear that bad decisions and business mistakes are the reasons WordPerfect fell out of favor with consumers. Its also unfortunate, and surprising, that Novell has just now chosen to litigate over a business it owned for a very short time and that it sold more than eight years ago." The unattributed statement went on to say that even before Novell bought WordPerfect in 1994, that product had already begun to decline. "Indeed, Novells stock dropped 15 percent the day after it announced the acquisition. WordPerfect deliberately chose not to develop a version for early versions of Windows in the hope that depriving Windows of a key application would limit the success of Windows," it said. This and other missteps had led to a decline in WordPerfects popularity that resulted in Novell selling it for about one-eighth of what was paid for it only 20 months earlier, the Microsoft statement said."It is also surprising that Novell seeks to use the courts findings in the Department of Justice case against Microsoft. That case had nothing to do with WordPerfect or any other office productivity software, and focused almost exclusively on other markets and technologies. In fact, Novell was barely mentioned during the U.S. antitrust trial. Moreover, the U.S. antitrust laws do not support Novells claims that a company is required to share its inventions and trade secrets with its competitors," the statement said. Novells LaSala said that while the lawsuit is unrelated to his companys current business, the claims are important and hold considerable value for Novell. "We intend to pursue aggressively a goal of recovering fair value for the harm caused to Novells business by Microsofts anticompetitive actions" he added.
An industry executive at a major software vendor who is familiar with the matter told eWEEK that the settlement of the NetWare antitrust claims had been nine months in the making and had nothing to do with the recent departure of Novell vice chairman Chris Stone.
Novell management, with Stones support, wanted to settle that matter so it could "then turn around and hit them [Microsoft] with the WordPerfect suit," the executive said. "
"The NetWare suit is three years old now, and the legal costs of continuing would have been astronomical. The $563 million settlement Microsoft paid Novell also helps them."
Some users were surprised not by Novells decision to settle, but rather by Microsofts, saying that NetWare is all but a dead platform.
"The gravediggers are already working to prep that hole. If a company is currently on NetWare, I think Novell has given them sufficient reason to seriously consider SuSE Linux as a replacement over the standard move to Microsoft," John Kretz, president of Enlightened Point Consulting Group LLC in Phoenix, told eWEEK.
The money would be good for Novell and would help fill the coffers drained by the Ximan and SuSE acquisitions, he said. "Im hoping theyll use the money to bolster operations, like development, support and marketing staff."
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There were also other fundamental flaws in Novells complaint, it said, and, given that the company had not owned WordPerfect for eight years, its claims should be barred by the legal doctrine called the statute of limitations.