After the 3rd or 4th "Year of the Network" everyone in business finally all got network cards in their computers, discovered email and the "Respond to all..." button and the world hasn't been the same since.
I understood Novell back in those days, but since, it's been harder. The idea of battling against Microsoft's emerging Office monopoly was a good one, but Word Perfect and their spreadsheet (was it Quattro? Bought from Borland?) were late and less-than-compelling.
Then they had some Unix license, which I guess can only take you so far.
In recent years, though, I've been very fond of the Mono project, the cross-platform .NET stack, which Novell sponsored. Recently, with Microsoft's move away from the Iron* languages, I thought things looked exceedingly bright for Mono.
Novell's death and the prospect of at least some assets being sold to Microsoft make me nervous about the future of Mono.