Novell Puts Bill Gates On Witness Stand - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Government // Enterprise Architecture
11:22 AM

Novell Puts Bill Gates On Witness Stand

Microsoft chairman expected to undergo cross-examination on charges that he conspired to kill WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, in case dating back to 2004.

Windows 8 Upgrade Plans: Exclusive Research
Slideshow: Windows 8 Upgrade Plans: Exclusive Research
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Attorneys for Novell are expected to cross-examine Microsoft chairman Bill Gates Monday in a federal courthouse in Utah, where jurors are hearing Novell's claim that the software giant used anticompetitive means to quash Word competitor WordPerfect and Excel rival Quattro Pro.

U.S. district court judge J. Frederick Motz, who is presiding over the case in Salt Lake City, may also rule Monday on Microsoft's request, submitted Friday, to dismiss the case.

Novell sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the software maker "deliberately targeted and destroyed" its WordPerfect word processor and Quattro spreadsheet franchises because they were compatible with non-Windows operating systems. Novell also charged that Microsoft banished WordPerfect from the Windows 95 rollout in an effort to drive the application into obscurity.

"Microsoft abused its monopoly power in the PC operating systems market to suppress the sales of WordPerfect and Novell's related Office productivity applications," Novell stated in its original complaint. "Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and [at the time] chief executive officer, targeted Novell's applications by name in documents recording Microsoft's anticompetitive schemes," Novell charged.

[Get the background on this long-running dispute. See Supreme Court Won't Block Novell's Microsoft Lawsuit.]

Microsoft has said it excluded Novell's apps from Windows 95 because they were unstable and caused Windows to crash. The argument mirrors the late Steve Jobs' reasons for banning Adobe Flash from Apple's iOS operating system.

Novell sold WordPerfect to Corel in 1996 at a loss of $1.2 billion, according to the company's court filings. The program has been become somewhat of a relic in the wake of Microsoft's dominance of the desktop applications market. Novell itself was acquired by Attachmate in April.

The tortuous tort is now in its seventh year and has bounced back and forth between district and appeals courts. A federal appeals court revived the case earlier this year. By refusing to hear the case, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 left standing a lower court's ruling that Novell could proceed with the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

In 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a district court's ruling that Novell's lawsuit could proceed.

Ironically, Microsoft and Novell have since become software market allies in the years since Novell filed the action. In 2006, the two vendors forged a partnership under which Microsoft resells Novell's SUSE Linux software and services.

Novell and Microsoft also worked out a $536 million settlement in 2004 to resolve Novell's claim that Microsoft plotted to ruin the market for the Novell NetWare operating system.

For the 15th consecutive year, InformationWeek is conducting its U.S. IT Salary Survey. Upon completion of the survey, you will be eligible to enter a contest for prizes including a Bravia HDTV or iPad 2, and get a link to download our report once it is published. Take the survey now. Survey ends Jan. 20.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2011 | 2:42:07 AM
re: Novell Puts Bill Gates On Witness Stand
Now HERE is some rewriting of reality. Let's sort out some strangely missing facts.

Come with me to the past... years before this imaginary legal fiasco supposedly happened. Novell at the time had the most credible networking software going, but no clue how to write workable, stable, useful applications at the user level. And when I say no clue, that's a compliment. Novell at the time considered the real world, the one we live in, to be far beneath it's technical perfection. Getting assistance, or even recognition of existence, from Novell was close to a religious experience for, you know, actual users. It was the world according to Geek.

WordPerfect was the crown jewel of a serious suite of superb applications. Their holdings included Quattro, which was WP's baby, a strong rival to the Lotus juggernaut and arguably better than Excel at the time, and Paradox, surely the best desktop database prior to possibly Access circa 2003 or so (some might argue with no exceptions yet today), for which they arranged a sharing accommodation with Borland.

Novell coveted the WordPerfect 'Office' product, the first significant product in the category for the desktop and small LANs. WPOffice at the time was a somewhat disjointed accumulation of the parts of the WordPerfect effort and not particularly well integrated, yet still approximately on a par with Lotus Notes, which was headed into the IBM camp. Novell figured out they needed to be able to compete with such a product for their own network offerings if they wanted to be competitive -- much less the growing importance of early versions of Microsoft Office. That was, at least in the geek sense, spot on.

The whole WordPerfect universe was the result of years of development by competent in-house management, and a dedicated technical team that valued and actually DID customer service. For FREE. The user base was loyal, the product was significant, and Word at the time was a comparative joke. But in 1994 (assume more than a week or two of negotiations, so really dating from 1993), after more than 15 years of work, and a staggering offer from Novell, WP was sold.

Novell took the whole shebang, including the single part they craved... the Office package, renamed as 'GroupWise'. They cared not one whit about the future of WordPerfect, or Quattro, or Paradox, the existing WP staff or anything that smacked of living breathing people. They did away with free customer service and effective support, happily charging people to be insulted by geeks, and basically stopped doing development of anything resembling an end-user application. Which is a karmic feature of this tale, since group software is by definition aimed to be used by those damned users. There's a reason for the slimy insults to WP versus MSWord, and it has nothing to do with the technical elements of the product. All this just as Microsoft was stumbling towards release of Windows 95.

Microsoft is not innocent in the deal. They were not in full control of the technology they intended to release as Windows 95, and near the point of introduction were madly making changes of various parts that did impact the ongoing compatibility of significant products that took advantage of internal 'hooks' -- such as WP -- to the point that not having access to those 'features' was a great injury to prior art. Perhaps the omissions were done on purpose... we'll never know. Much like the sort of thing they did with Vista, when the super-secret unauthorized internal functionality that many older drivers depended on (tricks that MS always discouraged, but let's not get into that swamp) disappeared. But of course Novell, in their technical perfection, was never going to stoop so low as to pick up the phone and call to see what to do. Competition, you know.

So here we are at 1995. Novell had owned the WP package for a year or so and had essentially discontinued effective development of all applications, including WP, to chase the phantom of Notes on the desktop. MS was introducing a major revision of Windows that did not maintain backwards compatibility very well for (some) sophisticated applications. Nobody was talking to anyone. Word (and MS Office) was a growing force. No heroes anywhere. Can't see any problems with that, can we?

For Novell today to engage in a lawsuit over any of this is insane.


After the fact of the 1995 debacle, a few years down the road, when the geek contingent of Novell had effectively neutered the whole WP package by ignoring it, not to mention failing utterly to produce anything to challenge Notes, the manglement contingent of Novell sold it all.

Yeah, I liked WP. A lot. It had features and services that MSWord took years to emulate, and a user interface that is still better than most. Today, it's all gone, gutted to be basically an imitation MSWord, down to the point of implementing VBA. Corel has milked the entire WP family of products for all the reputation it carried, and done nothing to maintain any inkling of superiority. Take the money and run. Sad story.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2011 | 7:53:54 PM
re: Novell Puts Bill Gates On Witness Stand
rhawkins982 --- not totally accurate. The DOS version of Word was absolutely inferior to WordPerfect (and even MultiMate). WordPerfect ruled the DOS world for wordprocessors. But when Windows 3.x gained traction, WordPerfect stumbled out of the gate with its first two releases of its Windows-based product (which was horribly slow and buggy compared to their much speedier DOS version - and their 'loyal' customer eventually went to Word as the more "stable", least time-wasting word processor for Windows). WordPerfect had an early, but short-lived lead on the Windows-side, but Word took over significant share at the Windows 95 release. Not quite the same story for Lotus 1-2-3, as Lotus was also struggling of the Windows-based world, while Excel was "born" there. QuattroPro had a solid Windows-based early release, but could not overcome the lawsuit struggles and also fell hard at the Window 95 release.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2011 | 6:55:38 PM
re: Novell Puts Bill Gates On Witness Stand
Word Perfect was OK when it had inferior competition, but when Word was released most users found it better than Word Perfect. My company made the switch because we judged Word to be better. That is often what happens in the competitive world. And often the losers find reason to complain and cry and moan.
10 Ways to Transition Traditional IT Talent to Cloud Talent
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  11/23/2020
Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/13/2020
Can Low Code Measure Up to Tomorrow's Programming Demands?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/16/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Why Chatbots Are So Popular Right Now
In this IT Trend Report, you will learn more about why chatbots are gaining traction within businesses, particularly while a pandemic is impacting the world.
Flash Poll