The future relationship of computer industry rivals Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. may include more cooperation and less competition, Novell executives said Monday.

"From Novell's perspective, it makes a lot of sense," said Christopher Stone, Novell senior vice president of strategy and corporate development, during a BrainShare '98 press conference at the Salt Palace."You should be able to develop an application for both (Novell's) NetWare and (Microsoft's) NT."

Stone said customers of Orem-based Novell want it to work more closely with Microsoft because the two companies often serve the same people with different products.

Eric Schmidt, Novell chairman and chief executive officer, said Microsoft is part of the industry "ecosystem," and the Washington-based firm has grown more willing to work with Novell than it was in the past.

Schmidt said the companies' mutual customers want more integration.

"We've had numerous meetings over the past year with Microsoft," he said. "Keep your eyes open as we make our solutions even more integrated."

Novell announced Monday that it has lowered the price of Novell Directory Services for NT, its software that is designed to reduce the complexity of managing networks with Microsoft NT servers. The new price is $26 per unit, with a promotion offering it for $16 per unit through July 31.

But Stone said Novell will not focus only on cooperation. The company will take advantage of a temporary lack of new releases from Microsoft to push its Net-Ware 5 computer networking system, he said.

The company announced Monday that NetWare 5's third and final beta version will be available by the end of April, and it is projected to land in 150,000 test sites. That keeps the new server platform on schedule for mid-year release, said John Slitz, Novell senior vice president of marketing.

"The demand for NetWare 5 is right off the charts," he said, adding that 79 million users already log on to earlier versions of Net-Ware each day.

Novell said the new NetWare will be the fastest platform in the world for running server-based Java applications. Java is a programming language that is rapidly growing in popularity.

The new beta version of the platform also will feature Con-soleOne, which brings graphical user interface management to the NetWare server console. And it includes an enhanced version of Novell Directory Services.

In addition to the improvements to NetWare, Novell announced Monday that it has reached a new bundling agreement with Oracle Corp. Through the agreement, a five-user version of Oracle8, a computer database server, will be bundled with versions of NetWare 4.11 and above.

"The number one platform now includes the number one data-base," Stone said. "You just get (Oracle8). You open the (NetWare) box, and there it is."

Schmidt said the bundling will help both companies. Novell has the chance to include a product that enhances its platform, and Oracle will have the chance to sell Oracle8 upgrades.

The announcement builds on a March 1997 agreement that called for more integration between products of the two companies.

Schmidt said such agreements show Novell is moving into a new phase of growing with its partners.

"The growth in the company will occur because the new products are hot," he said.