SCO woos Linux users with Unix product revamp

SCO is to rebuild its Unix product line, including the release next year of a more fully featured operating system, now codenamed...

SCO is to rebuild its Unix product line, including the release next year of a more fully featured operating system, now codenamed SCO OpenServer Legend, which it will try to position as a replacement for Linux.

The company revealed its plans at its 17th annual forum for customers, resellers and business partners in Las Vegas. 

SCO has been on the attack against Linux since March, when it filed a $1bn lawsuit against IBM, alleging that the larger company illegally put some of SCO's System V Unix code into the Linux project to benefit its own business. The lawsuit was later amended with additional charges and now seeks more than $3bn from IBM.

SCO has warned all enterprise Linux users since May that by using Linux they are infringing on SCO's intellectual property and are potential targets of legal action by the company. 

Darl McBride, SCO's chief executive officer and president, said,  "It's like a house that hasn't been maintained in a few years. We're going to come back and spruce this place up." 

The idea, McBride said, is to make the Unix alternative to Linux viable. "I think we have an incredible opportunity. The same way Linux is trying to catch up to us [with enterprise-mandated features], we can get ahead of them." 

OpenServer Legend will be a key part of the revamped product line, which also includes a new mail server product, deeper web services features and a renewed emphasis on Unix development.

OpenServer Legend, scheduled for release sometime next year, will include greater database, Java and application support, as well as more extensive Universal Serial Bus and hardware support. SCO also plans enhancements for security, Windows compatibility, support for web applications including the Apache web server and Mozilla browser, and deep connections to SCOx Web Services. 

Here at the conference, resellers, partners and existing SCO customers applauded the company's rejuvenated focus and product announcements, but this crowd of about 650 attendees is already in SCO's camp. 

The question now, though, is how enterprise Linux users will react in the marketplace after being threatened by SCO over the past six months. 

IDC analyst Al Gillen said SCO's plans to recharge its Unix lineup fits into its overall strategy of propping up its Unix products, which it continues to see as its most valuable holdings. But, he added, SCO has alienated Linux users and others and may have a tough time gaining trust and new market share. 

"That is a big challenge for them," Gillen said. "Like it or not, they really are trying to use scare tactics to get customers back. They don't see it as scare tactics," but many users feel they're being "coerced into a decision that they're not ready to make". 

The new emphasis on Unix development makes sense for the company, but Gillen did not see it as a guaranteed formula for success, "I don't know if that's going to necessarily turn the market around for them." 

Another problem for SCO has been that Unix market share has been declining over for a number of years. In 1999, Unix had 16.3% of new licence shipments, according to IDC data. In 2001, that share dropped to 12.4%. 

Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld

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