My memory of the time is of several things that killed Novell.
Ray Norda was dick. There was a pissing competition between Norda, Gates, McNeally and Phillip Kahn of Borland. Norda was annoyed because the others were doing really really well with applications and all Novell had to offer was a NOS which before 3.12, a pain to deal with.
Norda decided that he had to have applications and so bought Word Perfect, fucked that and sold it to Corel. Copping a load of shit because he relied on MS-DOS, they decided to use DR-DOS as the boot loader. He fucked that and then bought UNIX. Then fucked that.
MS contribution was not really NT, at least not until 3.51. Their real insight was to release Windows for Workgroups which gave all of those small (sub 20 users) businesses a "Server" or at least a data repository which could be backed up and preserve all of that data that no-one cares about any more. NT 3.1 was as stated too immature and too expensive. There also wasn't all that much technical support for it nor were there drivers for anything you would want to use. A good number of NIC vendors did not support TCP/IP on their products or they supported TCP/P and not NETBEUI. You had to reboot for any change to the network, drivers were not re-entrant.
I ran NT 3.51 on my trusty dusty 486 DX 100 with a 500MB Barracuda connected to an Adaptec 2940 and it fairly flew. Then I ran it on a DEC-ALPHA 150 and couldn't believe the difference.
Novell 4.1 was I suppose really really good. Telstra had over a 1000 Novell 3.12 servers and it took an hour to discover them all and then you couldn't view or manage them reliably. 4.1 sorted that out to a degree but then Telstra decided that there was better money to be made by partnering with MS and they eventually replaced all of their Novell servers with NT, domains and all.
I found 4.1 so different it would have taken a big investment in time to learn it thoroughly. Like many others, I already knew DOS and Windows back to front and customers could see the appeal of having the same interface so we just let Novell die as far as we were concerned.
*NIX was a clusterfuck. Just like Linux now, there were so many implementations of it, all having different versions of X11 or their own windowing system that SCO, UNIX, SUN, Ultrix, Minix, Silicon Graphics, IBM (to a lesser extent) HP et al were gibbering about the onslaught of Windows. Another thing that prevented *NIX from taking hold was hardware. Everyone wanted to sell their own hardware to run their (N)OS and applications. In 1994 You could buy three or four PCs, a length of COAX hose, four NE2000s and Windows for Warehouses for the cost of a single SUN workstation. Three out of four BIOSes were incompatible with NFS on PCs and a BIOS upgrade meant dialing into something like CompuServe with a 2400 BAUD modem, downloading a BIN file, scrabbling around to find the right EPROM, buying an EPROM burner and setting fire to a goat.
Just about everyone in the world wanted to run word processors, graphics programs, spread sheets and databases. Companies did not want to train (what has changed) people on different system, did not want to have all of the licensing problems that went with *NIX.
MS supplied it's resellers with posters bragging about the 10,000,000th copy sold. None of the other vendors could come close to that.
In the end Novell got rid of Norda and not before time and not before he had run through just about all of Novell's cash. They seemed to do everything second rate(except for NDS). Gropewise was frankly dreadful. Perfect Office was too little to late as Corel found out, using UNIX just killed off most of their technical support.
People in large corporations seem to see the world according to themselves forgetting that for every corporation with 1000+ bums on seats, there are 2000 small business under 100 BOS needing to similar things and Novell was too expensive to buy and more expensive to maintain than WFW and latterly NT. Norda forgot to take his pills and got a bit like Randy in South Park about his dick size. As we all know, it is not the size that counts, it is how you use it. Norda used his tooth pick to fuck the guts out of Novell.