On Friday, computing giant Novell announced that it's filing an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft alleging that the company illegally sought to "eliminate competition" in the office productivity market. The suit arises from Novell's brief mid-1990s ownership of WordPerfect, a company that made word processing and other office productivity tools that compete with Microsoft Office. Today, Corel owns WordPerfect.
"Novell asserts that Microsoft withheld certain critical technical information about Windows from Novell, thereby impairing Novell's ability to develop new versions of WordPerfect and other Novell office productivity applications," a Novell statement said. "The complaint also alleges that Microsoft integrated certain technologies into Windows designed to exclude WordPerfect and other Novell applications from relevant markets. In addition, Novell asserts that Microsoft used its monopoly power to prevent hardware partners from offering WordPerfect and other applications to customers." Novell is seeking unspecified damages from Microsoft.
The lawsuit's timing is a bit odd. Novell purchased WordPerfect in 1994 and, separately, the Quattro Pro spreadsheet from Borland Software and turned the products into an integrated suite that could more effectively compete with Office. Novell's cost for the two products exceeded $1 billion. However, WordPerfect fared poorly under Novell, and the company sold the suite to Corel less than 2 years later for just $170 million, a fire sale that raised eyebrows around the computing world. During that time, WordPerfect's share of the word processing market fell to less than 10 percent (in 1990, WordPerfect commanded almost 50 percent of the market). Today, Microsoft controls more than 90 percent of the office productivity market, which includes word processing.
Late Friday, Microsoft expressed outrage at the suit, which dates back to events almost a decade old. "Through this lawsuit, Novell seeks to blame Microsoft for its own mismanagement and poor business decisions," the company wrote in a statement. "The record is clear that bad decisions and business mistakes are the reasons WordPerfect fell out of favor with consumers. It's also unfortunate, and surprising, that Novell has just now chosen to litigate over a business it owned for a very short time and that it sold more than 8 years ago."