At its Partner Summit a few weeks ago, Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati openly targeted four of the company's biggest rivals in the South African market, including Novell. But while his stirring rhetoric may have boosted morale, it has left visiting Novell executives relatively unworried, if a little bemused.

In his keynote, Nyati – along with Oracle, IBM and VMware – singled out Novell Groupwise clients for specific attention. "There's no real roadmap for Groupwise, no new development," Nyati said at the time. "Customers have to move from that platform to something else. And, instead of going to something like Lotus Notes, let's help them move to the right platform."
On a visit to South Africa this week, Javier Colado, president and GM of Novell EMEA, and Dan Veitkus, its vice-president and GM, Partners EMEA, seemed unperturbed about Nyati's vitriol.
"My only comment would be that his statements were probably something to energise Microsoft's partners," Colado says. "But they've been trying for 15 years and I don't see anything different today. We have a new collaboration strategy that we're announcing now, so that's probably a threat to them too."
Veitkus was slightly more vocal, but just as diplomatic.
"Number one, obviously Novell is still relevant," Veitkus says. "If we weren't mentioned I would have been worried. We're still strong in various sectors, so I take it as a compliment.
"Secondly, these are e-mail platforms – Notes and Groupwise. It's an interesting observation for us because we're not having an e-mail conversation, we're having a collaboration conversation. Groupwise is an important piece of that, but it's interesting that he's taken aim at that. It's a lot richer story [than just Groupwise]."
Veitkus, too, believes Nyati's comments were aimed at rallying Microsoft's local partners, pointing out that the two software giants still have an ongoing working relationship.
"We have an important strategic partnership with Microsoft," he says. "Novell and Microsoft, in good faith, listened to our large customers and came together – and we've invested a lot of energy and money into this partnership."
Ah well, just when you thought the gloves were coming off and the handbags had been discarded …