Column: Novell begins to sound like XYY man

Aggression has entered the vocabularies of the new men at the top of Novell.

If I had a dollar for every time Novell executives used the word “aggressive” at the teleconference explaining the departure of former Novell president, chairman and CEO Robert Frankenberg, I’d maybe have enough money for two Big Macs.

Okay, they only used the word six times but that’s a lot for one press conference. Let’s just hope the new Novell doesn’t resemble one of those XYY men--you know, the ones with an extra Y chromosome which makes them really aggro.

As a journalist I don’t relish the thought of getting thrown out the door the next time I ask an annoying question at a Novell press briefing. But like many industry watchers I would welcome a tougher marketing stance from Novell. I would love to see it kick butt if only for the sake of maintaining some competition in the network operating system market.

Frankenberg’s dramatic resignation followed the announcement that the company’s third quarter revenues were down 42% from last year. According to sources close to Novell, a serious family illness also played a role in his departure, although company officials are declining to comment and Frankenberg himself has been unavailable since the announcement.

However, this changing of the guard may be just what Novell needs. Frankenberg’s chairman post has been filled by John Young, a member of Novell’s board of directors and former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Joseph Marengi, former executive vice-president of worldwide sales at Novell, has been appointed president. At the teleconference they were both fired up if not a tad repetitive.

“We are going to move aggressively into the intranet space ... I want Novell to move ahead as aggressively as possible,” said Young.

“I will take responsibility for driving the company forward aggressively ... we will aggressively pursue opportunities,” said Marengi.

“We are going to be taking a very aggressive marketing stance,” said product executive vice-president Steve Markman. “We’ll be redoubling our efforts on all marketing fronts, not just advertising but launches, trade shows and so on--we need to step that up big-time. For example, GroupWise was operating on the floor of the Democrats’ major convention.”

All acknowledged that Bob Frankenberg, with his technical background, had done good things for the company’s technology but his approach to marketing was more like no approach at all.

“We’ve been relatively passive the last few years but that’s going to change,” said Marengi. “No longer will people ask, ‘Where is Novell? Are they present in the new space?’”

Young conceded that Frankenberg’s two-and-a-half-year tenure had been “a difficult one” during which he had to sort out what to do with ill-fitting acquisitions (Wordperfect and UnixWare) made by his predecessor, Ray Noorda.

(Malcolm is Computerworld’s networking editor. She can be contacted by email at andrea_malcolm@idg.com.)

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