Dave Kearns: Caldera needs name change to keep clients

Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But evidently new Caldera International Inc. CEO Darl McBride thinks that the right name could make all the difference for a company struggling with identity.

Caldera was born when Ray Noorda left Novell Inc., acquired the rights to Novell DOS (formerly DR DOS, from Digital Research) and launched an antitrust suit against Microsoft Corp. Later on, the company got the Linux religion – most likely, in great part, because it was another anti-Microsoft move. Caldera’s OpenLinux had potential but little marketing savvy, and languished.

This year, the company joined with three other Linux vendors (SuSE Linux AG, Connectiva SA and TurboLinux Inc.) to create UnitedLinux – a core which would be used by all four companies. But the official title of Caldera’s product, “Caldera OpenLinux powered by UnitedLinux,” is certainly never going to become a catchphrase.

Along the way, Caldera acquired most of the former The Santa Cruz Operation Inc. (SCO), including its fairly lucrative intellectual property rights to versions of Unix derived from the former AT&T Bell Labs Unix System 5. That was curious at the time because it meant that Caldera’s chief competitor was – Caldera! The Unix-based OpenServer and UnixWare from SCO were being sold alongside Caldera’s OpenLinux. Many people found it hard to tell them apart.

In his new role as Caldera honcho, McBride has decided that Linux isn’t key technology (so it’s shipped off to the new UnitedLinux group), DR DOS is pass’ (so it’s not even mentioned), and the SCO name should be resurrected because it at least has some recognition.

The change might help hold on to wavering SCO clients, but the confusion won’t help bring in new clients.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at wired@vquill.com.