Network Pioneer Ray Noorda Dies

Ray Noorda died today following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 82 years old.

Best known as the CEO of Novell during a period of rapid of growth in the 1980s and ’90s, Noorda championed the firm’s NetWare networking software that became an industry standard. The company grew from 17 to more than 12,000 employees during his tenure.

“He helped drive the extension of the PC by building a successful file sharing system for the newly introduced PC that is now the de facto standard in Local Area Networks,” said Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins (Chairman and CEO of Dell Computer, respectively), in a joint statement.

Noorda was a fierce competitor with Microsoft both in business and also in the courts over various legal issues. But he is also credited with coining the term “coopetition,” the idea that companies could compete with one another, but still be successful sharing ideas and even customers in certain areas.

After Microsoft had pretty well established its dominance in office product software, Novell bought once-high flyer WordPerfect, but was never able to make much headway with it in the corporate market. WordPerfect was later sold to Corel.

“For years we kept hearing the next year was going to be ‘The Year of the Network’ and Ray was the biggest cheerleader for that,” Tim Bajarin, analyst with Creative Strategies, told “He envisioned it and was largely responsible for making it finally happen.”

Noorda had a degree in engineering and started a lengthy career at GE as an electrical engineer. Later he worked as a turn-around technology CEO at several companies, finally landing as head of then-tiny Novell.

After retiring from Novell, he founded the Canopy Group, an early-stage venture capital group that has invested in over 100 companies as well as philanthropic activities.

Noorda’s survived by his wife Lewena of 56 years, four children and 13 grandchildren.

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