SCO's Las Vegas Gamble

By Bill Claybrook

August 21, 2003

Where else to take a gamble but in Las Vegas? At its user conference there this week, SCO showed off pages of Linux code that it claims was copied from Unix System V. Among the viewers were resellers, part of an effort to pacify some resellers whose customers are concerned about what will happen [ ] to them if SCO should lose the lawsuit against IBM.

I was not at SCO Forum to see the code [ ] offerings again, but the presentation sounds very similar to the time several months ago in Boston when SCO showed me 200 to 300 lines of code - pages of Unix code side-by-side with Linux code.

The news accounts I've read about this latest exhibition [ ] indicate that some resellers believe what they see, even if they don't have a clue what they are seeing. Proving that some of the code in Linux came from Unix System V is going to be a non-trivial exercise; at least one developer told me that BSD 4.1 and 4.2 code made its way into Unix System V while his company was transitioning to Unix System V. In addition, code that appears to be duplicated in Linux may indeed have come from BSD 4.1 or BSD 4.2 and not from System V.

SCO continues to say that IBM's foray into the Linux business at the time that SCO and IBM were readying AIX for Intel (IBM decided not to bring AIX on Intel to market) has irreparably harmed the Unix-on-Intel business, specifically SCO's business. Let's look at SCO's Unix business then and now. The old SCO had OpenServer and UnixWare 7. SCO's Unix business was going downhill swiftly before the company entered into the deal with IBM. Around 1998 and 1999 their business was dropping double digits from year to year. One year in this time period -1998, I believe- SCO sold 40% of the Unix licenses. The next year this figure was down to 26%. The SCO Unix-on-Intel market was falling fast before the IBM debacle.

I was working at Digital at the time that SCO was trying to entering into some kind of deal to save itself (before SCO began working with IBM). Digital was interested in cutting a deal with SCO, but found the odds of doing something successful with them to be stacked to heavily on the negative side. IBM came along and took on SCO and also somehow wrangled Sequent away from Digital (Digital and Sequent had signed a deal to work together around Tru64 UNIX before IBM grabbed them away). HP should feel relieved that Digital and/or Compaq did not do anything with SCO.

3:45 ET

Copyright 2003