SCO Forum: Dueling with Linux & Microsoft
SCO Against the World
While thousands of members of the Linux community flocked to San Francisco for LinuxWorld, a smaller group of several hundred resellers convened in Las Vegas last week at SCO Forum, where they heard SCO officials deliver a competitive strategy that was anti-Linux and anti-Microsoft, almost in the same breath.
SCO rolled out some products for its value-added resellers (VARs) too--most visibly, a new "virtual server" codenamed Project Fusion. Pegged for release a year or two from now, the new server is seen as bringing together SCO's two existing operating environments--SCO Unix and UnixWare--while supporting non-SCO OS, too.
Meanwhile, SCO is targeting a new offering for resellers--dubbed the SCO Office Appliance Program--directly at the Microsoft market, according to Erik W. Hughes, SCO's senior director of product management and strategic alliances.
Addressing all of the forum attendees during a general session, SCO CEO and President Darl McBride attacked Microsoft's "perpetual use" licensing fees. SCO Unix is more cost effective for users than either Windows or Linux, he contended.
Not surprisingly, though, McBride reserved most of his criticism for Linux. The Linux community is both "a boon and a bane" for Linux, McBride said. On the "bane" side, Linux is characterized by "built-in obsolescence," he maintained,
"Linux [is an] organized set of volunteers and vendors," according to McBride.
On the whole, McBride came across as a lot less conciliatory than he seemed at SCO's OpenServer 6 launch in New York City in June.
During the legal discovery process, SCO recently found out that AutoZone--one of its courtroom foes--has "copied thousands of programs," he charged.
Yet by now, he admitted, SCO is spending "98 percent of our resources" on new product development, and merely two percent on the three current court cases versus AutoZone, IBM, and Novell.
In an interview later, McBride said SCO will soon "cap out" on its legal expenses, meaning that all installments will have been paid to lawyers under a $30 million deal which is supposed to cover SCO in all IP-related court disputes.
In his keynote at SCO Forum, McBride noted that, due to these high profile legal cases, SCO took the dubious honor of "most searched on company name" in Google last year.
Not too long ago, "a lot of people had never even heard of SCO," observed Al Gillen, an IDC analyst.
During his own keynote at SCO Forum, Gillen predicted a future business computing environment that will revolve around PC-based virtual servers from a handful of vendors. Each virtual server will be able to manage servers and clusters based on multiple OS, according to the analyst.
A few years down the road, Linux and SCO Unix each stand a good chance of landing among "the survivors," Gillen said.
SCO holds strengths in the areas of both a standardized application stack and long-time penetration of the SMB market, he added.
Over time, Red Hat has seemed to back away from SMBs, focusing more on enterprises instead, the analyst illustrated.
In an interview later, though, Gillen said that the company's legal strife might hurt SCO as it tries to expand into new SMB verticals--and that therefore, building more applications will be especially important.
During breakout sessions and meetings with reporters, although not in the general session, SCO officials cited new partnerships with MySQL and EnterpriseDB for open source databases and Borland for tools, all geared toward generating more SCO apps.
SCO also has existing database customers that include IBM for Informix, Computer Associates for Ingres, and Progress Software, Hughes said during a meeting.
"It's surprising who'll partner with you when you're making money," Hughes added.
Oracle, however, still steadfastly refuses to support SCO Linux, McBride said.
Also last week, SCO announced the appointment of Tim Negris, a former IBM and Oracle executive, as senior VP of marketing.
Negris will be seeking new market opportunities for SCO with SMBs, McBride said during a press conference.
The new senior VP quipped to reporters that he's neither a "plant" nor a "spy."
SCO won't have sales figures available for OpenServer 6 for another couple of weeks, according to McBride.
But SCO officials gave 374 as the number of attendees at SCO Forum 2005, claiming that the roster is smaller this year because, for the first time, attendance is limited to North Americans, and all showgoers must be VARs or distributors, as opposed to customers. SCO is now addressing other world markets through a series of shows overseas.
Ironically, a few of the VARs trekking to Las Vegas said they derive more satisfaction from meeting with other SCO VARs than they think they'd get from the open source/Linux community.
"I'm here because I think I can make a difference in the SCO community. People really listen to each other," said George J. Fulop of TSG, a VAR specializing in the petroleum industry.
But more predictably, many attendees at the SCO show said they were in Las Vegas--rather than San Francisco--last week because SCO Unix is a major ingredient in their bread and butter.
"We support SCO and Microsoft, in addition to customers who are using Linux. But I'm not sure how any (VAR) really makes a business (solely) out of Linux," said Deepak Thadani, president of Sys Integrators.
Citing Linux maintenance issues, D. Barry Weir, an accounting software reseller, noted that a colleague of his, whose software previously supported SCO only, has just added a version for Linux
"(But) to me, the biggest problem (around Linux) is that it seems to require more expertise and [on-site] maintenance than my customers are able to give," said Weir.