SCO Forum: SCO vows to beat IBM, upgrades products

LAS VEGAS – After enduring a year of personal attacks by the IT industry, SCO Group CEO Darl McBride pledged to continue the company’s legal battle with IBM Corp. and renewed its commitment to modernizing its own Unix platforms at the company’s user show here this week.

“The pressure applied by IBM and its agents is brutal,” McBride said, describing the stress he has endured as a result of the lawsuit over the past year.

SCO launched a lawsuit last year against Big Blue, claiming the company breached its Unix contract by contributing Unix System V code to the Linux project. The case is set to go to trial in Utah on Nov. 1, 2005.

McBride admitted he did not expect the year would be so tough and as part of his strategy to cope with the stress, he has decided to own some of the unflattering nicknames he’s been given. These include “the most dangerous man in IT,” “Mr. Unpopular,” and “corporate enemy number one.” It was by these nicknames that he was introduced to the stage at this year’s SCO Forum, with one addition: “Defender of Unix.”

SCO’s lawsuit against IBM could have serious repercussions for Linux users. If the Lindon, Utah-based SCO wins, Linux users could be found to be infringing upon SCO’s IP unless they pay SCO a license fee, which SCO has made available under its SCO IP license. Since its introduction, SCO has sold less than 100 of these licenses, McBride said, but he claims that revenue from the SCOsource division, which is responsible for the SCO IP license, will be up considerably when SCO announces its third quarter results in coming weeks.

Second quarter results showed SCOsource revenue at US$11,000 but McBride said third quarter’s revenue will “be in the six figure range.”

Also, SCO is still confident it will win the lawsuit despite opposition from most of the IT industry.

“The only reason I would pursue such a difficult cause is because I believe in it,” he told approximately 500 attendees during a keynote on Monday.

Additionally, he predicts that if SCO wins the lawsuit, the IT industry will support both the decision and SCO. “Once we win they will see that Big Blue has big problems,” McBride said.

Despite the hostility from much of the IT industry, SCO has at least one analyst on its side — Rob Enderle, founder and principal analyst of the Enderle Group in San Jose.

Enderle cautioned users to be wary of the costs associated with free software and encouraged people to try to look at both sides of the SCO/IBM lawsuit before passing judgment. However, Enderle admits to being prejudiced against IBM and is steadfast in his support for both SCO and Microsoft.

“Sometimes being on the right side is not being on the popular side,” he said.

Enderle, a former IBM auditor, said he has little confidence in IBM’s integrity to stick to its contractual obligations. From working with IBM, he said he is familiar with some of IBM’s skeletons and said if a division at IBM was going to break the rules, it would most likely be its software division.

He also accused IBM of using its power and position to prey on the vulnerable SCO, a tactic he said is commonly employed by large corporations.

But more importantly, Enderle said he has seen the code. When the lawsuit against IBM was first launched, Enderle said he made a particular effort to meet with SCO and view the evidence. The result: he said he found SCO had a case, eventually leading to his resignation at Forrester Research Inc., which instructed him not to publicly discuss the SCO suit.

Meanwhile, it also appears as if one of SCO’s largest Canadian customers is losing confidence in SCO. In fact, the customer and SCO Forum attendee said it even has a contingency plan to move to Linux should SCO lose its legal battle.

Shoppers Drug Mart Inc. in North York, Ont., has been a SCO customer since 1989. It uses the Unix vendor’s operating system to run its approximately 800 locations. Back in ’89 it started out with SCO’s OpenServer 3, and in 2000, the company switched over to SCO’s flagship product, UnixWare 7.1.1. Now in 2004, Shoppers is migrating over to the latest version of UnixWare, 7.1.4 because support for 7.1.1 is coming to an end, said Ian McMaster, manager of store technical services for Shoppers.

If Shoppers had had more time to devise another migration plan it would already be off SCO’s UnixWare and onto Linux. In fact, Shoppers has a plan in place to move to Linux in 2005 if SCO wins the lawsuit and third party support for UnixWare does not improve, McMaster said.

McMaster said Shoppers has been satisfied with UnixWare’s performance and reliability but is concerned about the platform’s lack of third-party support and what will become of SCO if it loses its IBM suit. For example, Shoppers uses IBM’s Informix Dynamic Server database, which does not support UnixWare. Additionally, Shoppers uses products from Dialogic Communications Corp., which also does not support UnixWare.

BEA Systems Inc. only certified its application server for UnixWare after Shoppers paid it tens of thousands of dollars to do so, McMaster said.

“To me SCO seem to be staying afloat and that means you have to look at alternatives,” he explained. “The IBMs, the BEAs [Systems Inc.] and the Dialogics are pushing SCO down to a tier three vendor. We need a tier-one or a tier-two vendor that will do current ports and certification. We listen to vendors and watch their roadmaps and when SCO disappears that will be a signal (to move on).”

But McMaster was not happy about the prospect of abandoning SCO. He described the company’s heyday in the mid-1990s and the fervor with which the company once sold its products. “They were a dynamic bunch and they had the same energy that Linux has today,” he said. “I just think they blew it. Its CEOs were misguided and they never recovered.”

He also expressed sadness about the company’s potential demise. “It was a great company all through the ’90s,” he said. “It had the market in replicated sites and there were allegiances we’ve formed over the years. It’s hard to think about losing them.”

But SCO is determined to hang on and has dedicated itself to modernizing its line of products. On Monday it announced a developer preview of the next release of OpenServer, dubbed Legend. SCO is hoping that Legend will increase the number of applications available for SCO’s OpenServer.

SCO’s vice-president of engineering, Sandy Gupta, said Legend has a 100 per cent increase in file system speed, updated Java support and an average of more than 20,000 hours of uptime before a reboot is required. Legend will ship in the first quarter of 2005.

The company also announced its SCO Marketplace initiative, which lets developers bid online for development work. Those who win the bid will be paid by SCO for their development efforts. Marketplace is not yet live but SCO promised to release more information in upcoming months.

Additionally, SCO introduced its latest effort to develop a 64-bit Unix, Project Diamond. Diamond will be available in 2006.

Finally, SCO has released SCOoffice Server 4.1, which it touts as an alternative to Microsoft’s Exchange server. It has e-mail virus and junk mail filtering capabilities along with secure e-mail access. It includes collaboration tools for scheduling meetings, sharing contact lists and folders. It also supports Microsoft Outlook, Qualcomm Inc.’s Eudora and Netscape. Additionally, mobile workers can access their e-mail from remote locations.

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