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By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-11-03 Print this article Print

Adding salt to the wounds of SCO investors, had Caldera/SCO stayed a Linux company, it, and not SuSE, would almost certainly have been purchased by Novell. SCOs and Novells roots run deep, with many current and former SCO executives having Novell jobs in their resumes.

That $210 million that Novell paid for SuSE must be looking pretty good right now. Alas, for SCO, the only relationship the two companies have now is an adversarial one as they fight over who really owns Unixs IP.

Microsoft and Sun, which supported SCOs attack on IBM and Linux by buying Unix licenses for a combined $50 million, also havent gotten their moneys worth. Linux continues to grow, and Sun, which is fighting hard against Linux with its talk of open-source Solaris 10, has been the single company thats been hit the hardest by Linuxs gains.

SCO also threatened to sue Linux-using companies. Those have turned out to be hollow threats. In its only two tangentially related cases, against AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler, SCO has not fared well.

All said, SCOs legal moves have had a profound effect on IT. While its highly unlikely that SCO can win its cases against IBM and Novell, its actions have led to IP issues becoming just as important as ROI (return on investment) and TCO (total cost of ownership).

Now when IT decisions are made, youre going to see not only the CFO, CIO and CTO involved, but the firms in-house counsel as well. Indeed, without SCO making everyone hyper-aware of open-source IP concerns, companies like OSRM (Open Source Risk Management) and Black Duck Software, which provides IP legal support, wouldnt exist.

IP isnt just an open-source issue though. Companies like Kodak are using their IP patents both to try to control industry standards and to generate revenue. These days, Im sorry to say, I find myself writing as often about patents and copyrights as operating systems and application servers.

Frankly, Id much rather be hip-deep in technology, as I was when I got my start in this business writing about data compression and cache theory. Today, thanks to SCO, though, legal issues are far more important to enterprise IT buyers than the differences between, say, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 and SuSE Enterprise Linux 9.

I cant see SCO winning its cases. Regardless of that though, SCO has mattered. It will have left us with an enduring legacy: lawyers, rather than developers and entrepreneurs, taking business technologys center stage. Its a legacy I could have done without. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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