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8/3/2004
08:12 PM
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Unix V. Linux ? What's really at stake?

IT industry consultant Rob Enderle came down hard on Linux and the concept of free software Tuesday at the second day of SCO Forum in Las Vegas. "I've always had a sense of [BS] and bullies," Enderle told the crowd of SCO resellers, software partners, customers, and employees. The implication, based upon Enderle's presentation, is that IBM and a faction of the Linux vendor and user community are resorting to threats and misinformation to undermine SCO's efforts to pursue legal action to

IT industry consultant Rob Enderle came down hard on Linux and the concept of free software Tuesday at the second day of SCO Forum in Las Vegas. "I've always had a sense of [BS] and bullies," Enderle told the crowd of SCO resellers, software partners, customers, and employees. The implication, based upon Enderle's presentation, is that IBM and a faction of the Linux vendor and user community are resorting to threats and misinformation to undermine SCO's efforts to pursue legal action to protect the intellectual property it acquired from Novell back in 1995.Enderle said today that careers and livelihoods of people who support SCO are at stake as a result of a movement to promote free software and discredit SCO's claims. Enderle, a former IBM employee, has landed firmly in SCO's camp, and he says much of this has to do with roadblocks that were erected as he attempted last year to investigate SCO's claims that IBM had violated its contract for Unix System V source code.

Enderle said he's been accused of being a shill for Microsoft, and he acknowledges that the Redmond crew has invested in businesses where he's worked. He was also upfront about calling SCO's lawsuit against automaker DaimlerChrysler a "mistake." Still, he cautioned crowd gathered from thinking this misstep reflects in anyway on SCO's legal battles with IBM, Novell, Red Hat, and AutoZone.

Enderle warns against a world in which "everything is free," and suggested that a lot of the people behind the open-source and "free-software" movement are former dot-com millionaires who made their fortune and have less of an interest right now making money than they do in keeping others - namely, proprietary vendors - from making money.

Missing from Enderle's presentation, however, was the possibility that SCO itself could be perceived as a bully by using the threat of lawsuits to keep the Linux market from spreading as SCO dukes it out with IBM in the courtroom. Slowing Linux's growth seems to be the primary reason SCO in March sued AutoZone: for violating SCO's Unix copyrights. In other words, the auto parts retailer was singled out for being a Linux user.

On Enderle's point that people and companies are "fools" for thinking that they can get something for nothing, although I'm only one of many reporters covering the business and technology markets, I haven't heard any end-user companies talk about using Linux or open-source software because they think it's free. If I do find someone who says that, I'll let you know. Certainly, users point to Linux's lower cost when compared with Unix and Microsoft, but much of that cost savings - they say - comes from being able to use cheaper servers and avoid Microsoft licensing fees.

This idea of "free," I'm told, refers more to the availability of source code than it does cost. Red Hat and Novell are in business to make money. They've found ways to do this off of open-source technology. It's just a different model than what's been tried in the past in selling operating systems, which was to make money off of OS licenses. Linux vendors make their money on services and the applications they package around the OS. SCO's not really so different, the company is looking at Web services tools and apps like SCOoffice as future sources of revenue. It also wants to charge specifically for its Unix OS. In the end, the market will decide who's right.

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