From my angle it was arrogance that really killed Netware
Interesting take on the story Netware's decline. Way back, I used to support small businesses running Netware, Netware Lite, and LANtastic. All were good fits for different sizes and needs. But, they were all an additional cost and support and licensing was a horrid pain. Digging through paper to find authorization codes, faxing licensing forms back and forth, waiting for days for a keycode to get a server or workgroup back up and running - you know the scene. Calling Novell and - if you could even talk to anyone - paying for support to find out it was a known bug or begging for help when you couldn't find your license documentation or, worse yet, having to phone the exalted Novell Engineer who installed the mess only to let him or her blame everything that was wrong on you. Configuration - archaic. I'm pretty sure I remember having to input IP addresses in hex in some version of Netware back in the 90's. Then, along came Windows for Workgroups and NT 3.x. Lacking some functionality, but out of the box, close enough considering the ease of implementation and Microsoft support and documentation was very good - compared to everyone else. Once the Internet was available, MS really understood how to deliver free support on line. Novell still wanted your money. Plus, you could actually sometimes walk the tech-savvy client through a MS client or server fix on the phone. That was possible sometimes with Netware, but rarely. Yes, a Netware server could stay up and running for weeks, even months sometimes. But, a tuned up NT box could come pretty close for way cheaper. Another killer was that it was very difficult to resell Novell unless you had thousands of dollars and lots of time to buy a Novell certification. So, even if you knew what you were doing you would have to hook up with a Novell person who, if the opportunity seemed lucrative enough, scoop your client. All you needed to get MS products was an account with a distributor and the brains to put it into place. The other side of all this is that, yes, anybody's inlaw could then install a network. But, I'm not sure either that there weren't a lot of "paper" Novell experts back in the olden days who made some equally bad messes.