Noorda, Raymond J
NOORDA, RAYMOND J.
Raymond J. Noorda, more than any other individual, is widely recognized as the man primarily responsible for the advent of networked personal computers (PCs) in the business environment, shifting PCs from stand-alone tools to interlinked nodes in a larger, more fluid network. While Noorda didn't invent the local area network (LAN), he is considered the figure who created the organization—and the market—in which LANs could achieve critical mass.
Born in Ogden, Utah and raised in the Great Depression by Dutch Mormon immigrants, Noorda worked in various manual labor jobs for several years, contributing to his famous work ethic and frugal living habits; according to Computer Reseller News, even as a multibillionaire Noorda maintained a tiny office and flew coach class. After fighting with the U.S. Navy in World War II, Noorda received an engineering degree from the University of Utah and went to work for General Electric. By 1970, Noorda felt he'd accumulated enough experience to strike out on his own, and launched a consulting firm catering to struggling firms.
An electrical engineer by training, Noorda made his name by taking struggling companies and turning them into successful industry powerhouses. Beginning in the 1970s, Noorda rescued a number of notable players, including System Industries, Inc. and Boschert Inc. But he achieved his greatest fame and success at Provo, Utah-based Novell Inc. In 1983, investors coaxed Noorda to serve as chief executive of the troubled three-year-old firm. Noorda quickly took Novell to the forefront of the burgeoning network-software industry, expanding the company beyond its original PC-components manufacturing operations. Novell's bread and butter through the 1980s and early 1990s was its software for local area networks, which allowed companies and organizations to wire their personal computers in networks and reduce their reliance on expensive and bulky back-office mainframes. Novell's nosediving stock price prompted Noorda to retire in 1994, but he maintained a hefty stake in the company's shares, which contributed greatly to his financial health in the late 1990s as Novell shot back up the stock market. In late 1999 Forbes estimated the 75-year-old Noorda's wealth at $1.1 billion.
In the early 1990s, Noorda was notorious in industry circles for his very fierce and very outspoken criticism of, and feud with, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. Noorda's distaste for Gates and Microsoft stemmed from his perception that Microsoft's aggressive tactics in the software industry were greatly harming not only Novell but the industry as a whole, as well as adjacent industries and their consumers. Indeed, Novell was one of the major players responsible for the highly publicized government antitrust investigation of Microsoft in the 1990s. The animosity between Novell—and Noorda in particular—and Microsoft was not without its nuances. In fact, Novell twice attempted to merge with Microsoft, but was rebuffed.
After retiring from Novell, Noorda busied himself with a variety of projects. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Noorda's activities were channeled primarily through his investment organization, Canopy Group. He invested heavily in several companies aiming to compete with Microsoft by building alternative operating systems to Microsoft's Windows. In September 1999, Canopy Group brought to life Center 7, an electronic business application service provider (ASP) providing companies with e-commerce tools ranging from databases, Web-based storefronts, and procurement management.
"Beware a Billionaire Scorned." Economist (U.S.), March 18, 1995.
Buchok, James. "A Novell Sunset," Computing Canada, April 6, 2001.
"Kings of the Code: Rich Computer Programmers," Fortune, October 11, 1999.
"Noorda, Ray." Computer Reseller News, November 16, 1997.
SEE ALSO: Gates, William (Bill); Local Area Network (LAN); Microsoft Corp.; Novell, Inc.; Personal Computer (PC), Introduction of the