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© August 2004 Tony Lawrence

SCO has a gathering once a year. I've never been (just not interested in that sort of thing), but it's a pretty safe bet that attendance has been heading downward over the last few years. You'd expect that with waning interest in their products, and of course the anti-Linux lawsuit can't have helped.

The ChannelZone article apparently interviewed a few resellers and product vendors and got a strong feeling that these folks want SCO to ditch the lawsuit and get back to business. Not just any business, either: the resellers want SCO OpenServer.

For those of you who know nothing about OpenServer, it's SCO's oldest and most popular OS. Perennially lagging in features, always way behind the curve, and yet ever popular. Its strong point is its stability, but one does have to wonder: why don't these resellers etc. just switch to Linux?

The answer is: many have. Many of the vendors who make add-on products for SCO systems also make the same product for Linux. And some who used to make product have abandoned the SCO market and now concentrate elsewhere - unfortunately, those folks have usually gone the Microsoft route. As for the resellers, most have embraced Linux for some time now and often are selling Linux products right alongside SCO. But why keep SCO at all?

Well, the stability is part of the answer. SCO spokespeople love to tell of unknown servers chugging away year after year in dark closets, untouched and abandoned, yet still running the business. Sure, these things are true, but that could be equally matched by Linux nowadays. But there is another aspect of stability that is both a blessing and a curse: OpenServer doesn't change very much. New features are painfully slow to arrive, and support for old features stays in. You can run truly ancient Xenix 286 code on OpenServer - and people do.

And that is the real answer: those long running servers in the dark closets are often running old code - sometimes very old code. Sometimes the original vendor of that code is long gone - out of business, or moved to Microsoft. Sometimes the vendor is still around, but the company doesn't want to upgrade. That may be because of expense (a lot of SCO's client base is very small businesses) but sometimes it's features like compatibility with some other piece of ancient software that can't be upgraded.

Inertia. The customers hang in, so the resellers do also. The third party product vendors follow their lead. It won't last forever, but it's probably good for a few more years at least. Could SCO renew its former popularity at this late date? They are making long-needed updates to OpenServer, adding features that will bring it closer to other modern systems. But they lack the financial muscle of Microsoft or the popular support of Linux. The improvements are certainly welcomed by the reseller channel, so those may add to their survival chances. And, in spite of places like Groklaw insisting otherwise, of course there is always the possibility that SCO wins their lawsuit. It's hard to get any objective view of how likely or unlikely that might be, or of what happens after any outcome - win or lose. Most people with technical backgrounds are strongly opinionated (usually against SCO) and those without strong opinions usually lack technical understanding. I'm certainly aware of my own bias which includes both a preference for open source and a dislike of corporate abuse of patents and copyrights. I also have a strong sense of "fair play", but I'm not entirely sure who is playing unfairly here.

Well, I doubt SCO is going to listen to their resellers. They haven't been listening for many a year now. They chased after the big game, hoping that Unixware would bring them into the big Enterprise markets. They told the world that OpenServer was dead product, soon to be discontinued. They cut back and finally entirely stopped regional reseller meetings. Had they polled the resellers before embarking on these lawsuits, I'm sure the response would have been overwhelmingly negative.

And I'm sure they'll hear that at SCOForum, too. No doubt McBride et al. want to stand up and sell the crowd on why they are doing this, but my bet is there will be no warm reception for that message. Will McBride pay any attention to the "get back to real work" demands? Probably not.

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More Articles by © Tony Lawrence

---August 3, 2004

CommentsBlog1030 :

---August 3, 2004

How depressing.

The way I always seen is as is that these lawsuites are a exit strategy for SCO management. They tried to do the double marking thing that Sun is about to try to do, which is Unix for the highend and legacy, and Linux for the lowend.

However once Linux was higher end then their highend that's when SCO people started suing everybody.

It's especially depressing when you realise that part of the lawsuite is about the origins of Linux's SMP ability. Linux had SMP before SCO did, mostly. And guess what company contributed a lot of the code and early efforts at getting Linux SMP capabilities?


It was before they aquired SCO though.(I think)

With the recent rumor put out by Slashdot, the Sun may want to buy Novell BS. I figure the best thing is to have Sun buy out SCO and end it.

The advantages are good I think for Sun. They want to get Solaris into cheap x86 machines. SCO is all about Unix on x86, that's the whole thing that kept them alive. Sun is all about reliability, and has a good reputation and Solaris would be a fine thing to migrate to. I am guessing that something like that would appeal to the sort of people that are still using SCO.

If Sun wants to aquire a Linux distro, Caldera is just sitting their waiting for them. That would mostly make them part of United Linux, and even though you don't hear from them much distros like Turbo Linux and Conectiva are popular in some foreign countries. TL in Asia, and Conective in places like Brazil. Places like that that are still building infrastructure would probably like Sun and their support. Then that will give them the angle they need to make some profits without being squished to death by cheapo Linux and management-freindly MS. Get out of the US in a world not ruled by Bill Gates.

Plus it would make everybody happy. SCO employees, SCO customers, the Linux crowd. Don't know about stock holders that much, but maybe the appeal of Sun finally owning Solaris with no/very little liscencing ties/fees to anybody else would be appealing enough. Plus give them a chance to make a little bit of money off of IBM. (I'll end the lawsuit, you pay me for the rights to the code and it's all yours and you don't have to worry about anything.)


---August 3, 2004

No, Linux didn't have SMP before SCO. SCO had SMP before Linux even existed. As the the high end/low end strategy, I don't think that was it. SCO was entranced by the high end pre-Linux - again, I mean before Linux existed. And I'm not so sure that Unixware compares so poorly to Linux..but that's something that could be argued.

But Sun buying up the whole thing is a nice thought..


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