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SCO Turns Focus Away From Legal Battles

President and CEO Darl McBride focused his speech at SCO Forum on the company's strategy for getting its Unix-based products back on the map.

Larry Greenemeier

August 2, 2004

3 Min Read

More than 400 of SCO Group faithful packed into an MGM Grand Hotel ballroom Monday to hear a very different message at SCO Forum than they did a year ago. Talk of intellectual-property litigation was toned down to allow time for the company to address its strategy for getting its Unix-based products back on the map.

"We will continue to defend Unix, and we will continue to see that it has a bright future," president and CEO Darl McBride told his audience of customers, software vendors, and channel partners.

Although he devoted a portion of his address to revisiting SCO's legal action against IBM and portraying his company as an underdog reeling from IBM's decision to pull out of Project Monterrey, a now-defunct joint project to create a 64-bit version of the Unix operating system to run on x86-based servers, McBride also talked up SCO's plans for a 32- and 64-bit-compatible version of Unix to run on servers powered by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. processors.

Although SCO's financials have taken a turn for the worse this year, company executives say Unix still offers users stability, scalability, and reliability not available with Linux, SCO's primary competition when selling for use on x86-based systems. A large piece of SCO's road map includes building both its UnixWare and new OpenServer Legend operating systems on the SVR5 Unix kernel, which means software vendors can write the same application to run in both environments. Legend is scheduled to debut during the first half of 2005.

The next phase of SCO strategy is Project Diamond, which includes 64-bit-compatible versions of UnixWare and OpenServer written to the same SVR6 Unix kernel. Diamond is scheduled for the first half of 2006.

Unix continues to have some advantages over Linux, namely its stability, says Al Gillen, IDC's research director of system software. The cost disparity between Unix and Linux has become less of an issue over time as software makers are increasingly forced to write their products to run on "enterprise" versions of Linux that are not free. "The value proposition that enterprise versions of Linux are striving to have are the features that are already available in SCO Unix today," Gillen says.

One area in which SCO's road map has shown a marked improvement: the ability to certify the same applications on both its UnixWare and OpenServer operating systems. Prior to this capability, SCO's software-vendor market was split, cutting down on the number of applications available to SCO users. "It's always about the apps," Gillen says. "An operating system can't succeed without applications."

Despite the company's financial difficulties and the ire it has invoked in certain areas of the Linux community, SCO's Unix products continue to offer some features not available elsewhere. After 11 years as an OpenServer customer, CSK Auto Inc. is upgrading point-of-sale and parts-inventory systems at 1,125 stores to run on UnixWare and a SQL database. The overall migration will take three years and begins this week, when CSK implements at one of its retail stores a graphics-capable, thin-client terminal, IP-based cash register and Dell PowerEdge server running UnixWare.

CSK had for a few years been putting off an IT upgrade as it weathered a tough economy, but the company ultimately decided it couldn't wait any longer, says George Duckworth, CSK's director of store support. The company looked at Linux as a replacement for SCO Unix on its Intel-based server platform, but Linux doesn't support the 16-bit Xenix-based point-of-sale system upon which its cash registers run. Xenix is the predecessor to 32-bit Unix. "These registers will be with the company for at least three more years," he says.

Duckworth likes what he sees in the product road map SCO has laid out over the past several months. Is SCO's product push too little too late? Duckworth says he isn't sure. He does say, however, "if they'd started two years ago, they'd be better off."

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