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This Time, SCO Offers Mobile Web Services, Not Lawsuits

Vendor will have to overcome big rivals and ill will from its legal history.

Larry Greenemeier

September 23, 2005

3 Min Read

SCO Group believes it has found a way to make people forget its legal battles and stagnant Unix business. Last week, it launched a new division--Me Inc.--and a set of Web services designed to let companies tie smart handheld devices that act both as cell phones and mobile desktops to back-end applications and data.

At the core of Me Inc. technology is something SCO calls an "edge processor," actually a Web-services engine that runs on any Linux, Unix, or Windows server. The other main part of the Me Inc. package is a set of templates to help companies create mobile applications and services. These include: Shout, which is being used by beta clients to push voice and data messages to mobile users; Vote, used to poll mobile users on a particular topic and then tabulate the results; Action, a tool for remotely managing assignments and employees; and People, used to create personnel directories with multimedia profiles.

"We want to be the iTunes of software," SCO's McBride says.

"We want to be the iTunes of software," SCO's McBride says.

Photo by George Frey/EPA

Musco Food Corp., a distributor of Italian food that's steeped in old-school ways of doing business, recently tapped SCO and reseller Ask Technologies Inc. to upgrade the company's paper-based methods of order processing. The vendors say Musco is using Me Inc.'s Shout capability to, among other things, push pricing and promotional information out to salespeople in the field while they're visiting with customers. SCO says that Utah State University also recently used Shout to send voice mails to the school's sports boosters to let them know that a football game with Nicholls State University of Thibodaux, La., was canceled because of Hurricane Katrina. Future Me Inc. applications will let users turn their Treos, Research In Motion BlackBerrys, and devices running Microsoft Windows Mobile or the Symbian operating systems into remote controls for their IT infrastructures, SCO president and CEO Darl McBride says. "We want to be the iTunes of software and make digital services available to businesses," he says.

The technology behind Me Inc. comes from SCO's little-noticed July 2003 acquisition of Vultus Inc., which offered tools for developing Web services that small and midsize businesses could build atop their SCO Unix infrastructures. SCO bought the company just a few months after launching its infamous multibillion-dollar lawsuit against IBM. At the time, SCO called its Web-services initiative SCOx and envisioned that Vultus' WebFace Web-application development environment would let customers transform archaic green screens into dynamic browser-based interfaces. "There wasn't a lot of interest in that, though," McBride admits. This forced SCO to find another way to make use of its investment in Vultus.

The offerings from Me Inc. represent a high-growth opportunity for SCO. "What SCO described here today is clearly something people are interested in," says Tony Iams, an analyst at research firm D.H. Brown Associates. "It's a little bit of a long shot, although the company has a solid technology foundation with its Vultus acquisition."

One of the challenges a struggling SCO faces is pushing a Web-services platform against those offered by Microsoft through .Net and Sun Microsystems through its Java development environment. SCO also has to contend with the ill will its legal actions have created. Whether or not they use Linux, many companies have been put off by SCO's decision to take its fight to end users such as retailer AutoZone Inc. Says Iams, "It's a huge challenge for them, since they're seen as the company that's trying to kill Linux."

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