Money Matters - Simplified

Too Little, Too Late For Novell?

Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) is launching Novell Pulse, an enterprise collaboration product built on Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Wave, hoping to attract corporate customers with tighter control of who can touch your waves of discussion and information. Google's own business-class Wave won't be ready for another until later this year, so Novell might steal a march on the tool's original inventor in this space

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But is it too little, too late for Novell?

The company is under pressure from an unsolicited and unwelcome buyout bid, and the would-be buyer takes the rejection as a challenge. Novell's board said that it would contemplate "various alternatives to enhance stockholder value," including share buybacks and special dividends, partnerships and joint ventures, and even an outright sale of the company. "We welcome the Board's decision to conduct a sale of the company," said private equity firm Elliott, which might not be exactly what Novell said.

In that light, Novell's Pulse looks like a last-ditch attempt to distract critics and buyers from the company's large portfolio of outdated and dying products. Pulse could replace Groupwise, which is an alternative to the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) SharePoint and IBM (NYSE: IBM) Lotus Domino platforms with a long and storied history. Management is also trying to phase out its NetWare operating system in favor of the SUSE Linux platform without scaring off decades-old customers too quickly. It's easy to see why Elliott thinks that Novell needs help, even when the company throws a Hail Mary to show that it's still hanging with the cool kids.

Even if Pulse steals the corporate market out from under Google's nose, it might not matter. Novell's days as a stand-alone business are numbered, and whether the new master might be Elliott, IBM, Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), or perhaps Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), one successful product still in diapers and searching for a market won't make a difference.© 2010 UCLICK L.L.C.