Novell anointed a marketing powerhouse by open source media outlet

* Novell's 'marketing prowess' recognized

If you had to rank Novell's marketing prowess, where would it be? Closer to number 1, 10, 100, 1000, or so far back the number wouldn't fit on this page? Most of us would put the Waltham networking company well down the list, but as proof that "context is everything" (that's the writer's version of the real estate agent's maxim "location, location, location!"), NewsForge editor Lee Schlesinger has anointed Jack Messman and company as a marketing powerhouse.

In an article published earlier this month (see link below), Schlesinger speculates about the potential of the two major Linux distributions, Red Hat and SuSE to dominate the enterprise space. Currently Red Hat is far and away the No. 1 seller. It's not because Red Hat is technically superior, according to Schlesinger, but because the company has done a better job of marketing. No more, though, he opines. "If good marketing is the answer, Red Hat's days at the top are numbered; with Novell behind it, SuSE is going to kick Red Hat's crown."  Evidently, Linux marketing is so inept that even Novell can come in and dominate. That should be interesting to watch.

Marketing against other Linux distributions is one thing (choose your cliché: "big fish in a little pond," "in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," etc.), marketing against vendors of other operating systems is quite another. Novell's PR people need to step up and muzzle Messman if there's to be any hope of competing against entrenched operating systems such as Solaris or Windows.

You may remember that last year, in an interview with "Computerworld" (link below), Messman called Linux "an immature operating system." At the recent LinuxWorld conference, Messman was quoted by CNN (link below) as saying, "Linux desktops need a little more work to be consistent, I don't know how much of that will come about this year." If PR can't keep Jack locked up, then perhaps a mandatory session of "Marketing 101" is in order. While what he says may be true, it's not designed to give those holding the enterprise purse strings a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Will Novell be the 800-pound gorilla of Linux Marketing that Schlesinger predicts? Or will it continue to be the marketing-challenged company that we, nevertheless, have come to love (just as we love our family, no matter how embarrassing they become). Pay attention at BrainShare this year, you'll probably get a decent preview of the marketing campaign to come.

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Network World, 02/23/04

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