Where Novell lost out? You all are missing it
Novell started losing the game when MS began making network administration tools more intuitive than novell's offerings. I don't think anyone here would disagree that administrating MS networks is more complex than novell networks; quite the opposite. Novell's management tools never really got better, they'd just change direction midstep, leaving half done toolsets out there. Half done tool sets that were the only tools to use, in many cases.
For instance, I applaud their move to web services for network administration ( although iManager is...touchy. I'm still not quite sure how you screw up a web interface so badly, but then I shouldn't be surprised coming from Novell ), but then you try to manage Groupwise...and find the only tool available for that is in Console one. Which itself is finicky about java and the windows version you are running.
eDirectory is...ok. The problems I always had with it were the sharp edges; if you weren't careful, you could cause seriously confusion problems my simply moving a user to a different container.
And then we have...zenworks. Wow, what a steaming pile of crap. Sure, it does neat things..but nothing Active Directory + WPKG can't accomplish better ( and maybe a vnc for remote desktop capabililties ). Having been forced to use this abomination of an "enterprise desktop management application", I have to honestly wonder about the competency of any tech that recommends it.
Those were the three things that killed Novell, IMHO. Had they tightened up their client and made it less resource intensive, cleaned up the management tools and added a little polish, I'm sure they'd still be a force to deal with for MS. Oh, and had they never never touched zenworks.