Novell deal delivers Microsoft browser

Some might call it sleeping with the enemy, but to Novell and some of its users, it is just good business sense. That's how Chris Stone, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Novell, characterised the Utah-based company's agreement this week to license and distribute all current versions of rival Microsoft 's Internet Explorer World Wide Web browser with Novell products.

Some might call it sleeping with the enemy, but to Novell and some of its users, it is just good business sense.

That’s how Chris Stone, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Novell, characterised the Utah-based company’s agreement this week to license and distribute all current versions of rival Microsoft ’s Internet Explorer World Wide Web browser with Novell products.

“There’s a 90%overlap in Novell’s and Microsoft’s respective customer bases. This type of inclusive functionality is something our customers wanted — choices,” Stone said. “It’s an indication that we can work with Microsoft.” Stone was referring to the fact that Novell also will continue to bundle Netscape Communications ' Navigator and Communicator into NetWare.

Four users contacted by Computerworld said Novell’s decision to bundle Internet Explorer in with NetWare, Novell Directory Services and Zenworks doesn’t impact them from a practical standpoint because they already have Internet Explorer 4.0 installed. Rather, the users said, they are most cheered about the significance of the announcement.

“It sounds like the boys are getting to feel good about each other and bury the hatchet someplace other than in each other’s backs. It is good business sense. Novell and Microsoft can’t keep waging war like they have been, since it’s only the users that get hurt,” said Matt Rice, vice president and senior network manager at USTrust Bank in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rodolphe Jabbour, integration and test lab manager at GMAC Corp. in Detroit, agreed. He said he hopes the pact signifies a warming trend in the formerly frigid relations between Novell and Microsoft “that will extend to other products as well.”

“We have both Novell and Microsoft on our servers and desktops,” Jabbour said. “The rivalry has made life tough on us. There’s been lots of finger-pointing when problems arose. And we’ve had to avoid having our full-time Microsoft and Novell on-site consultants present at the same staff meetings because we could feel the heat.”

The deal calls for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to be made available to all NetWare customers as part of a regularly updated client CD-ROM. Additionally, the Microsoft Web browser will ship with future versions of Novell products. Because the technology deal was inked just last week, Stone said Internet Explorer 4.0 won’t be included in the initial shipment of NetWare 5.0, which began shipping last week, nearly two weeks ahead of schedule. “We are moving fast, though, to include Internet Explorer 4.0 in the NetWare 5.0 box in the near future,” Stone said.

Stone said the pact with Microsoft won’t impact Novell’s arrangement with Netscape, whose Navigator Web browser has been incorporated into NetWare for about a year.

“Users will be able to download either or both Netscape Navigator and Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer 4.0 from NetWare 5.0,” Stone said. Both browsers will interface with the Netscape FastTrack Web server, which is included with NetWare 5.0.

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