Novell is suing Microsoft over messages on cereal boxes sent to its customers by the Redmond giant.
Called Microsoft Server Crunch, the cereal box-like marketing mailout carried a number of questions and answers including the statement: "You're left with a server platform without the full support of its manufacturer," relating to a recent merger between Cambridge Technology Partners and Novell.
Microsoft sent the boxes to a large number of Novell users, claiming that Novell was shifting away from software development to consulting, thus leaving customers facing higher costs and little support.
Stewart Nelson, chief operating officer at Novell, said: "These questions and statements are completely false and misleading. Microsoft has tried to create a fictitious end-of-life for NetWare to create fear and uncertainty within Novell's customer base and to discourage future customers from doing business with Novell.
"While corporate America has long grown used to Microsoft's bullying business tactics, with this campaign, it has crossed well over the line. These misrepresentations about Novell, its products and product support go far beyond comparative advertising and we believe are clear violations of [US] state and federal law."
Novell wants unspecified cash damages from Microsoft, and a court to order the software giant to recall its cereal boxes and sent out corrective advertising.
The firm recently released NetWare 6, the latest version of its network operating system. New features pitch it directly against Microsoft's rival Windows product.
Novell has now reiterated that there is no expiration date for NetWare and that it continues to be the company's flagship software offering.
Dan Kusnetzky, vice president at researcher IDC, said that his organisation expected NetWare to continue to be a factor in the server operating system market through to the end of its current forecast period in 2005.
"The new features in NetWare 6 clearly show that Novell has a vision of how it can add value to its customers' networks as their applications evolve from the traditional client/server model to a broader web services model," he explained.
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