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8/2/2004
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SCO has a plan, and (this time) it doesn't involve the inside of a courtroom

More than a year into its contentious battle with IBM, Novell, and the Linux community over Unix's possible role in the development of Linux, the SCO Group still believes there's a place for its Unix-based products. Even as Linux grabs share from competing operating systems, a recent Forrester Research study notes that Unix isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

More than a year into its contentious battle with IBM, Novell, and the Linux community over Unix's possible role in the development of Linux, the SCO Group still believes there's a place for its Unix-based products. Even as Linux grabs share from competing operating systems, a recent Forrester Research study notes that Unix isn't going anywhere anytime soon."The Unix-on-x86 market is not gone," SCO president and CEO Darl McBride told me Monday at SCO Forum. "There are a number of users and resellers out there still pushing it, and that's our starting point."

McBride says all of the things you expect a man in his position to say. He was brought in to place his stamp on SCO (then called Caldera at the time). And, boy, he has.

The death of Project Monterrey was critical in shaping the future of SCO Group, the company contends. Project Monterrey was supposed to be the next big version of Unix, and while it never came to fruition, the concept of Unix-on-x86-based servers has turned out to be a winner. This, McBride says, is obvious with Linux's successful entry into market for enterprise-ready operating systems.

A Forrester Research study released in June reports that "proprietary Unix install plans match those of Linux and are in many more firms today." Forrester concludes that Linux will be installed by 47% of companies over the next three years, an increase from the 27% of the companies currently using Linux, and just short of the 50% of firms that plan installations of any proprietary Unix. Since companies retire operating systems only gradually, proprietary Unix will be in more firms than Linux for many more years, the Forrester study says.

Although SCO spent most of 2003 pursuing its intellectual-property infringement claims against IBM and threatening to take Linux users to court, 2004 has been more a year of rebuilding the company's product line.

While McBride proclaims himself a staunch defender of Unix, he does understand the role of open source in the corporate marketplace. Indeed, SCO's product roadmap acknowledges the growing influence of open-source databases as well as the demand for Web services that give legacy applications new life in Web-based user environments.

SCO reiterated its product roadmap in detail Monday. This roadmap includes a new version of its new OpenServer Legend operating system, which comes integrated with PostgreSQL and MySQL open-source relational databases as well as SCO Web Services Substrate, which includes SOAP and XML-based Web Services libraries for integrating applications and developing new applications. In order for attendees at SCO Forum to take a copy of the Legend developer's version, they had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Of course.

SCO also says that Hewlett-Packard had certified its Modular Smart Array 1000 and 500 storage products on SCO's UnixWare and OpenServer operating systems. SCO is also now shipping SCOoffice Server 4.2, the latest version of its e-mail and collaboration server for the small- and medium-sized business market. SCOoffice, priced starting at $299 for a five-user license and server license, can be used in place of Microsoft Exchange Server to connect with Microsoft Outlook, Qualcomm Eudora, and Netscape. Another key to SCO's product strategy is the June release of Smallfoot, a toolkit used for developing a Unix operating system in embedded environments, such as handhelds and kiosks.

McBride says that SCO is working to make its Unix business profitable, even as its SCOsource intellectual-property enforcement team burns through cash. Ultimately, SCO's lawsuits are a big gamble. Success against IBM validates SCO's contention of the demand for Unix-on-x86 systems and leaves the door open for SCO to collect some form of reparations for the role it claims that Unix source code played in Linux's success. Failure in court won't mean the end of SCO, but McBride has no illusions as to what Linux's staying power means for the sales of SCO's Unix operating systems. "If we lose, we're where we are now, but with not as bright a future." That's either optimism or understatement, I can't tell which.

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