Bonum Certa Men Certa

Further Financial Analysis of Novell (Looking Grim, Despite Grooming)

Even embellishment has its limited capacity

IT Jungle has the tendency to patiently cover news stories about a week after they make their initial appearance. The analysis is typically more profound as result.

Last week, for Novell at the very least, was the week that everyone took advantage of. They discussed Novell's alleged successes, as measured in terms of the state of its Linux business alone. This was bogus [1, 2, 3]. Now comes the following decent analysis, which delves a little deeper into the details others tended to miss, primarily folks whose inner self wanted to see Novell succeed. Everyone tends to prefer hearing just the good news, unless Microsoft is involved.

Commercial Linux distributor Novell may be very happy about the growth that it is seeing from its SUSE Linux products and has certainly dodged a bullet by embracing Linux as plain vanilla NetWare sales go into what is probably a permanent, if very elongated, decline. But Linux is still, by the numbers, a very small piece of the business at Novell, even if it does give Novell mindshare in today's IT space as the major--some might say only--alternative to Red Hat.


Of course, Novell's Workgroup division, which sells the Open Enterprise Server amalgam of NetWare and Linux, should probably be counted as much as Linux as not at this point, and this is still the largest part of Novell. In the second fiscal quarter, OES sales fell by 1.5 percent to $48.2 million, and NetWare sales fell by 7.1 percent to just under $6 million, with NetWare licenses down and support costs up. Novell's GroupWise and related collaboration software brought in $28.2 million in sales, up 7.7 percent, within the Workgroup division, and with all the other software in this unit tossed into the mix, the Workgroup division brought in $92.4 million, down 9/10ths of a percent. Identity management, a big deal for Novell for the past decade, accounted for $30.7 million in sales, up 6.4 percent, and systems and resource management, another area where Novell has tried to put a heterogeneous stake in the ground, brought in just under $41 million, up 15.4 percent.

There are conflicting views, which most likely depend on one's preference. You might find some who argue (unsurprisingly from Matt Asay again) that Novell did not need Microsoft for a boost in sales while Ed Moltzen, for example, seems to indicate that Novell should attribute this boost to Microsoft. He merely refers to the remarks of Novell's CEO, who seems keen to pass Microsoft some flowers.

Part of the deal called for Microsoft to pony up $240 million to Novell so, in exchange, it could hand out coupons to customers for Novell's server Linux. From the looks of it, Microsoft hasn't exactly been wasting time.

"To date, we have invoiced $157 million, or 65 percent of the original five-year, $240 million agreement," Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian told financial analysts last week when discussing his company's most recent financial performance.

You are hopefully seeing just how Novell's CEO feels about Microsoft. That's his #1 competitor, or at least what ought to have been his #1 competitor before losing focus and essentially signing off a non-compete clause with the company that hates Linux with passion.

At the end of the day, only one company truly enjoys this deal. That company is Microsoft. It doesn't need to even write code. All it takes is a handshake and a software patents portfolio.

Ron Hovsepian and Steve Ballmer

MS Novell

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