Earlier this year the Lotus/Novell merger received headline attention, and the merger would have made Lotus the largest microcomputer software company (even larger than Microsoft!). The deal didn't happen because of cold feet on the part of Novell's stockholders and some speculated greediness on the part of Novell's CEO, who wanted a better position within Lotus after the merger.
But whatever the reasons behind the split between Lotus and Novell, Lotus has decided to go after Microsoft in another way - by buying Samna Corp., a company that produces word processors for the Windows environment. Samna's Ami and Ami Professional have compared favorably with Word for Windows in recent reviews.
This move by Lotus looks like it has a far better chance of succeeding than the Novell merger. Samna, relatively small company, could use the clout behind the Lotus name to win market share from Word for Windows. Lotus could use a Windows word processor to compete with Microsoft's Windows' versions of Word and Excel, a popular software duo. The combination of Samna's word processors and Lotus's version of 1-2-3 for Windows should offer a competitive combination to compete with Microsoft's products.
The catch? Yes there's always a catch. Even before Lotus and Novell were talking to each other, Lotus and WordPerfect had agreed to develop 1-2-3 and WordPerfect so that the programs would have similar interfaces under Presentation Manager (OS/2's graphical interface). It isn't clear what WordPerfect will do now that Lotus has essentially abandoned it in the graphical interface wars. Perhaps having WordPerfect as an ally was not as useful to Lotus as having its own weapons.
How will this affect the Macintosh market? As usual it's unclear. Lotus has little or no say in the Macintosh market (though we'd love to see Improv for the Mac), WordPerfect isn't particularly powerful (but wait for WordPerfect 2.0), and none of Samna's products work on the Mac at all. Nevertheless, a Lotus-Samna joint venture might prevent Microsoft from overly dominating the entire microcomputer software world, and that's a positive aspect of the merger. If too much of the popular software comes under the control of too few monolithic companies, we feel that the innovation often brought to market by the little companies will be discouraged. Unfortunately it takes a giant to slow down another giant - we hope that innovative software can still slip under the giants' notice.
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
InfoWorld -- 05-Nov-90, Vol. 12, #45, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 05-Nov-90, Vol. 7, #44, pg. 1