Novell chairman steps down

Novell, the net services software vendor, sprang a surprise last week with news that along with its $266m (£177.3m) acquisition...

Novell, the net services software vendor, sprang a surprise last week with news that along with its $266m (£177.3m) acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners, the company’s chairman and CEO, Eric Schmidt, is to step down.

Schmidt, who has been at the helm since joining the company from Sun Microsystems in 1997, where he was chief technology officer and corporate executive officer, will continue to serve Novell as the vendor’s chairman and chief strategist.

The Silicon Valley veteran steered the company through a tough period when he assumed the role, before engineering what turned out to be a brief turnaround.

Latterly, Novell has lost market share to competitors such as Microsoft and Linux, a decline which Schmidt himself admitted he was unable to arrest.

In a brief statement, Schmidt said of the coupling of Novell and Cambridge: “The move is strategically consistent with where we are taking Novell. The combined talent of Novell and Cambridge will bring us closer than ever to capturing the value of Novell's Net services strategy.”

His successor as CEO will be Jack Messman, who is currently president and CEO of Cambridge Technology.

The appointment of a figure with a consulting rather than a product background has been viewed in certain quarters as an indication that Novell’s product groups will hold less importance in the company's future strategy.

The merger of the two companies has come at a difficult time for both of them, with Cambridge experiencing problems in retaining its staff and customers, who are re-evaluating their e-commerce plans in the face of the dot com collapse.

Meanwhile, Novell has failed to maintain its grip on the high-end of its channel and hold strategic positioning with key OEMs, who have been steadily migrating to Microsoft.

The migration was hastened when Novell altered its pricing in 1999, much to the annoyance of its channel.

Peter Joseph, director of corporate strategy for Emea at Novell, admitted the vendor had been going through a period of transition in recent years.

“Our strategy has changed, with the focus very much on helping companies move to e-business by integrating the business, based around our technology.”

Joseph outlined what the addition of Cambridge would bring to Novell as it became more service-orientated.

“One of the key elements of this is recognising that as we talk to more and more of our customers, the involvement of consulting services in the delivery of what we are doing is becoming more and more apparent. This acquisition allows us to drive the acceleration of the change the company is going through by helping the delivery of the system.”

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