SCO Riles Open-Source Players

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-03-17 Print this article Print

Vendor's lawsuit against IBM over UNIX could threaten customers.

The SCO Group is under fire from its partners and others in the Linux and open-source communities for its billion-dollar lawsuit against IBM.

SCO alleges in its lawsuit filed this month in Utah that IBM made "efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of Unix ... to benefit IBMs new Linux services business." IBM spokesman Bill Hughes, in Armonk, N.Y., dismisses the lawsuit as "full of bare allegations with no supporting facts."

IBM and SCO disagree about what took place between them before the suit was filed. Hughes maintains that SCO never approached IBM to raise the complaint or to give advance notice of the lawsuit. "IBM has been openly supporting Linux and open standards for several years, and neither SCO nor any of its predecessors ever expressed these concerns to us," he said.

The comments contradict SCO CEO Darl McBride, who said SCO had been talking to IBM since December and had reached an impasse. Legal action was the only way forward, said McBride, in Lindon, Utah.

McBride has also stressed that the IBM case is not about the Linux community. "This is not about the open-source community or about UnitedLinux. ... This case is only about IBM and the contractual violations that we are alleging IBM has made," he said.

Richard Seibt, CEO of SuSE Linux AG, in Nuremberg, Germany, is disappointed with SCOs legal move, saying that while SuSE agreed that SCO has a right to enforce its intellectual property rights, "we are concerned that these actions are not in the best interest of customers, partners and the Linux community."

Seibt also said SuSE, which partners with SCO in the UnitedLinux distribution coalition, is "re-evaluating [its] relationship with SCO."

"That said, we want to very clearly and unequivocally voice our support of the ideals and goals of UnitedLinux and the Linux community," Seibt said.

Open-source-community activists and consultants are angry about what they see as SCOs baseless legal action. Bruce Perens, in Berkeley, Calif., an open-source consultant and activist who is a former senior global strategist for Linux at Hewlett-Packard Co., said SCO is playing both sides: It is pointing out that its action is not against Linux or the open-source community, yet on the other hand, it is suing one of the largest players in the Linux and open-source communities.

"The Linux and open-source community are not deceived by this. We ... will now never recommend any products created by SCO or Caldera [International Inc.]," Perens said.

Some in the community are worried about what this dissension could mean to open source and the IT industry.

Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer of Red Hat Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., told eWeek at LinuxWorld in January that "every time people get engaged in unproductive arguments, it slows things down. What the IT industry needs today is a direction forward."

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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