SCO stresses software with OpenServer6

As SCO opens the doors to its annual SCO Forum jamboree in Las Vegas, it has launched a PR campaign to paint itself as a straightforward software company, playing down its high profile legal activities.

And no PR campaign from SCO is complete without an open letter from CEO Darl McBride, this time promoting his company’s OpenServer6 product – at the expense of Linux.

McBride’s public vilification of Linux through open letters has blown up in his face in the past, but this time around the agenda is promoting OpenServer6, the latest version of SCO’s Unix operating system, and something that SCO must make a success of to stay viable.

McBride writes that Unix is core to SCO and that it has been his focus ever since he joined in 2002. Since that time however, SCO’s R&D budget has dropped from $17.5m to $10.6m.

SCO PR Director Blake Stowell told us that those cutbacks are part and parcel of making its Unix business profitable and fuelling its litigation involving IBM, Novell and Red Hat. ‘But the good news is there is a light at the end of this tunnel,’ said Stowell. ‘Under our agreement with our legal teams, the company will pay $2 million each quarter through the end of January 2006. After that, the legal teams will shoulder the burden of carrying our cases forward without the need for SCO to pay further quarterly legal fees. The legal fees after that date will be relatively minor, and we can then continue to build our cash position and invest in greater research and development.’

Speaking to IDG News Service, McBride even went so far as to suggest that no matter how things turn out in the court room, SCO will still be around to sell Unix.

Yet VNU reports that even SCO execs themselves admit that the company’s litigious stance has hurt Unix sales, despite a warm response to OpenServer 6.

Stowell told us: ‘The success of SCO OpenServer 6 is certainly critical and we feel like we’ve brought a product to the market that has every reason to be successful. Broad application support, full backward compatibility, and in some cases our customers have told us they’ve seen a ten-fold increase in performance. We’re seeing a lot of interest on the part of customers to upgrade to this product. The press reviews of the product coming back have been quite positive.’

Yet there is no questioning the market for Unix is in decline. SCO may have shuffled things around at home to put its Unix business in the black, but takings continue to decrease. And on a broader scale, IDC said that for the first quarter of the year, for the first time ever companies spent as much buying servers running Microsoft’s Windows platform as Unix. Likewise Linux servers saw a 35.2 per cent revenue growth year on year.

Is there really any chance that SCO can reverse this trend? Stowell said: ‘Our legal team is focused on our court cases, and our company and our resellers are focused on bringing great software solutions to our customers. If we can accomplish both of those things then the market will respond accordingly.’

Ultimately, the last laugh maybe had by Novell, which has recently filed counterclaims in its Slander of Title suit with SCO. It claims that the agreement under which it sold Unix assets to SCO is a clause that grants Novell 100 per cent of Unix royalties. Which it would now like back, retrospectively.

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