What Comes the Day After SCO Dies?

 
 
By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-02-11 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Opinion: When SCO finally goes down in flames, what will happen to Linux and SCO's Unix products and IP? I have a few ideas and a lot of questions.

Some folks I know over at SCO are peeved that no one sees that they won a victory in the latest clash in the SCO vs. IBM saga. One such objector said, "If the whole world took everything that some people said as the gospel truth, then no, this wouldnt look very good for SCO. How theyre able to take the judges denial of all of IBMs Preliminary Summary Judgments and say that this is an awful day for SCO is beyond me though. I wouldnt say that it was a win for either side, but it also wasnt a one-sided loss for SCO as some would have the world believe." Yes, looked at from that point of view, it was a "victory." But theres a phrase for this kind: "Pyrrhic victory."
Pyrrhus, for those who were snoozing during history class, was a king of Epirus in Greece who fought with the Romans. He won several victories, but after the last one at Asculum, seeing how many men he had lost, he said, "One more victory like this will be the end of me."
Exactly. When the judge doesnt close the case against you, but writes, "It is astonishing that SCO has not offered any competent evidence to create a disputed fact regarding whether IBM has infringed SCOs alleged copyrights through IBMs Linux activities"; and notes that there is a "vast disparity between SCOs public accusations and its actual evidence—or complete lack thereof," its not much of a victory.
So, it is then that I started thinking about what might happen after SCO loses. All SCOs copyright claims over Unix are open to debate, even if you discount Novells claims. The courts will make the final call, but I dont expect SCO to end up with much of anything. Still, SCO has some original work in OpenServer and UnixWare Unix variants, and some of it, like its SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) and OpenServers incredible stability, is darn good. In addition, there are still quite a few resellers and their customers who rely on their products. With Canopy, SCOs parent company, in disarray with its former leadership fighting with its founders family, I have a bad feeling that SCO wont survive at all. Prior to the Canopy fight, and with its legal costs capped, I had assumed that the post-defeat SCO would slowly decline with support for its loyal customers as they gradually migrated away to Linux or Solaris on x86. Now, now Im not sure it will be able to do that. SCO could be here one day and gone the next, depending on what the courts decide. What I think will happen is that someone—Novell? Sun?? IBM!! Microsoft!!?—will buy what Unix IP SCO is left with. As for its products… OpenServer and UnixWares market share was in decline long before Linux started taking over the Unix world. Still, someone, I think, will take them up. Theres still money—as many a reseller can attest—in supporting these systems. But it wont be much money, and you certainly arent going to see your income grow as time goes by. I suspect that one of the bigger SCO resellers will end up with SCOs two Unix operating systems. Were HP not in an uproar, Id think that company might make a good buyer for these operating systems. Its not well known but HP, via Compaq, has a long relationship with SCO and its Unix products. With Carly out, though, I think thats out of the question. Novell, which had strong ties with SCO, and certainly knows about the problem of moving customers from older operating systems to Linux, might also make a good buyer for SCOs operating systems. And, since Novell is in the area, it would also make a natural employer for displaced SCO employees. One thing though is for certain. Its time to start thinking about a post-SCO world. It may still be years away, for the mills of justice grind very slowly, but the day will come. Oh, and as for Linux? Hello, Mr. Gates, your worst nightmare is coming true. After burying all your opposition, youve got a real operating system competitor on your hands again. eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been working and writing about technology and business 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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