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Novell lays off just under 100 workers

Open-source company joins the pained tech industry and lays off less than 3 percent of its staff.

Correction at 1:31 p.m. PST January 31: A much lower figure for the layoffs has been added. My apologies to Novell, though I am glad to hear that the layoffs are much less severe than my source told me).

An inside source at Novell just informed me that Novell laid off a considerable percentage of its workforce on Friday. (That source, as noted above, was wrong. He has been a good source of information in the past, but he got this 100 percent wrong, and I was wrong to post that original number without waiting for comment from Novell.)

The news came in too late to seek comment from Novell on Friday.

On Saturday, Ian Bruce, Novell's public relations director, contacted me to let me know that fewer than 100 people have been laid off worldwide, which represents less than 3 percent of the total workforce.

These Novell layoffs add to the mounting woes of the already enfeebled technology industry, which has seen tens of thousands of employees lose their jobs.

Novell is by no means the only open-source company to resort to layoffs. Sun Microsystems has announced a staff reduction of up to 18 percent, while several of the most prominent open-source start-ups have more quietly laid off significant percentages of their own employees in an effort to achieve profitability more quickly than originally planned.

The leading open-source company, Red Hat, has yet to announce any layoffs.

While it's exceptionally painful and I hate unemployment (from terrible personal experience within my extended family), one thing is clear for Novell: it can and should be doing more with less. I've been saying for years that the company operates with far too much overhead. Novell has long been a meeting culture where some people exist solely to attend meetings.

These layoffs, horrible as they are for the individuals and families involved, position Novell to become a much more agile and tough competitor (and, frankly, Novell will likely need to cut more at some point, in my opinion). Those who have lost their jobs will slowly feed into the various economies in which these people live, including Omniture, Infor, Symantec, and other companies with strong Utah presences (as well as companies in Waltham, India, and elsewhere that experienced the layoffs), and they and these companies will be the better for their presence.

But for Novell, it needed to pare back and force itself to compete lean and hungry.