Users applaud Novell suit over Microsoft ad campaign

Users say it is about time Novell went after Microsoft for "making and distributing false and misleading" statements about Novell's flagship product, NetWare 6.

Novell sued Microsoft on Monday in Federal District Court after private negotiations failed to get the operating system giant to recant claims it made in a series of ads targeted at Novell customers (Novell sues Microsoft over ad campaign).

"This is so un-Novell like," says Doug Spindler, president of the San Francisco Windows NT/NetWare User Group.

According to Novell's claims, Microsoft sent out a cereal box to Novell customers, labeled "Microsoft Server Crunch," that included statements such as: "What's the expiration date on that NetWare platform?" and "You're left with a server platform without the full support of its manufacturer." The box parodied the popular Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal.

Other users had stronger language to express their delight with Novell's action.

"It's amazing the gall that Microsoft has sending this type of stuff around at a time when the Justice Department is scrutinizing everything they do," says Peter Strifas, a directory engineer at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. "Is Novell sending this information to the Justice Department? I'd imagine a lawsuit like this would get their interest."

Novell attempted to work with Microsoft to rectify the damages it perceived the operating system giant had done to its reputation. After a few attempts, Microsoft agreed to recant one of its claims. Novell, unsatisfied with the negotiations and possible remedy, sued.

"[Microsoft's retraction] is not satisfying to Novell because it does not correct the harm that we have likely incurred because of the cereal box campaign," says Joe LeSala, general counsel for Novell. "Microsoft put out false and disparaging comments about us in the form of an elaborate campaign. It's a sophisticated marketing piece."

Novell is asking the U.S. District Court to stop Microsoft's advertising about Novell and NetWare. It is also asking for advertising that corrects the "misleading" statements, as well as unspecified monetary damages.

"Microsoft has tried to create a fictitious end of life for NetWare to create fear and uncertainty within Novell's customer base and to discourage future customers from doing business with Novell," Novell Executive Vice President and COO Stewart Nelson says.

The recent advertising is not Microsoft's first this year, says Novell. Shortly after the announcement that Novell would merge with consulting company Cambridge Technology Partners, Microsoft posted a story on MSN Money Central that said Novell was moving out of the software business and into consulting. According to internal Novell documents Network World received, the company will derive 30 percent of its business from IT solutions consulting, 60 percent from software licenses and support, and the remaining 10 percent from education and management consulting.

Microsoft could also be accused of spreading uncertainty about Novell products, observers say. A year ago, a post on Microsoft's site about Novell Directory Services raised Novell's ire. Novell retaliated by asking Microsoft to remove misleading information. Microsoft complied.

It is also not the first lawsuit to come, albeit indirectly, from Novell against Microsoft. In 1996, Novell sold DR-DOS to Caldera, a recent start-up headed by former Novell CEO and Chairman Ray Noorda. Caldera sued Microsoft asserting that the company was trying to dominate the PC operating system space. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount last year, and Novell received a portion of the settlement.

Microsoft declined to comment.

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Deni Connor

Computerworld

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