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Novell sees turnaround in Singapore

Hoping to snap back from a year of sliding sales, the networking software veteran is forging ahead in Singapore with plans for a clearer product and marketing message.

Hoping to snap back from a year of sliding sales, networking software veteran Novell is optimistic about its business in Singapore and plans to forge ahead with a clearer product and marketing message.

According to Novell Asia managing director Cliff Smith, local operations turned the corner in the first quarter ending in January. The driving forces behind the positive performance included a change in management and improved marketing efforts.

"We were looking at putting a stop to the decline (in sales) here," Smith said at a press conference.

Singapore was Novell's worst performer in the first half of 2001, posting a revenue decline of 18 percent while other Asian countries registered more than 40 percent growth rates.

With the changes made, Smith believes Novell's operations in Singapore will exceed an initial target of a 20 percent increase in sales for the fiscal year ending in October.

Since August of 2001, Novell has clinched close to 60 software upgrade deals from current customers, said Lee Wai Hoong, Novell's general manager for Singapore and Indonesia. Most of the contracts were for the company's NetWare network operating system and GroupWise collaboration software.

Lee, a former Cap Gemini Ernst & Young executive, declined to reveal the value of these contracts but listed Temasek Polytechnic, educational institution Informatics and property developer CapitaLand as repeat customers.

On a regional basis, Smith expects the rest of Asia to register more than 20 percent growth for 2002. That's expected to come from tighter marketing--a task the firm acknowledged has floundered globally--and by condensing its 163 individual products into four suites to avoid confusion.

The refined list: workspace (including NetWare and GroupWise), network management (including ZENworks and Novell Directory Services), secure access and provisioning (including eDirectory and SecureLogin), and portals.

Novell is attempting to evolve its business to handle a variety of software infrastructure tasks and associated consulting services, after its $266 million acquisition of technology consultancy Cambridge Technology Partners last year.

In the early 1990s, Novell commanded more than 70 percent of the server operating system market. That was before it lost focus and market share in competition with Microsoft and, more recently, Linux. The company now holds roughly 17 percent of the network operating system market.

CNETAsia's Irene Tham reported from Singapore.