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Is this how Novell treats its customers?

Novell bashes the City of Los Angeles for dumping its product in favor of Google Apps, but for what purpose?

Technology companies are generally quick to publicly announce and highlight their customer wins. But in what strikes me as a first, Novell has publicized a customer loss, announcing to the world that the City of Los Angeles dropped it for Google Apps, including Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs.

Who at Novell could have possibly thought this was a good idea?

Google recently announced the City of Los Angeles as its latest high-profile customer win for Google Apps, one that reflects growing momentum for the cloud-computing giant's enterprise business. Until Novell's announcement, I had no idea that Los Angeles had dumped Novell GroupWise in favor of Google Apps, and suspect few others did, either.

Novell, however, attacks Los Angeles' decision, arguing "The City of Los Angeles should have opted for this proven product [GroupWise] to ensure the security of its data and to save taxpayer money. They have taken a risk with no reward."

Translation? "We think Los Angeles is run by a bunch of fools who aren't smart enough to know what's good for them."

This is no way to treat customers.

It's not made any better with this throwaway line: "However, as a valued customer, Novell will continue to offer our world-class support to the City of Los Angeles during the transition."

Well, that's comforting, but given that it comes at the tail end of Novell publicly excoriating its "valued customer," it's doubtful that LA will linger long with such a "valued vendor."

This isn't the Novell that I know. I used to work for Novell, and have never seen the company publicly criticize a customer, not even for defection, of which Novell has seen plenty over the last decade.

It's unclear who Novell is hoping to persuade with the announcement, or what benefit it hopes to derive from it. Is it trying to stem a tide of customers dropping GroupWise for Google Mail? If so, why has it not done the same for all the companies (and there have been plenty) leaving GroupWise for Microsoft Exchange or IBM Notes/Domino?

In fact, the only companies that benefit from this kind of customer abuse are IBM and Microsoft, because Novell slams Google Mail's alleged security and cost deficiencies, without them having to sully their hands with the negative marketing. It certainly won't endear Novell to the City of Los Angeles or to its other customers.