Lots of reports from SCOForum 2004. Darl is baaaack, talking freely and in his inimitable fashion to one and all in the press. And what is the main theme? Put the lawsuits in the background, please. It's not about litigation. Why are you all focused on that? In SCO's new world it's all about UNIX now. SCO eats, sleeps and drinks UNIX. And as a secondary theme, it's please, please, please don't listen to Groklaw.
What I gather from reading between the lines of reports in the media and general feedback is that they seem to have gotten a clue they are unlikely to win in the courts, and so they are trying to get the world to forget the litigation and see them as a Unix company with a future instead. They don't "need" to sue any more customers at this time, they are saying. I guess that means, if you buy their new products, they won't sue you like they sued IBM, AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler. Not at this time. So a major shift is underway.
On the second day, Groklaw came up again and again. Rob Enderle, I'm told, referred to Groklaw in an "IBM's running dog" kind of way and said he hoped any from Groklaw would be offended. I've heard they may be putting the speech up online, after which we can decide if we are offended or not, based on the actual words used. It's always best to get confirmation of rumors and eyewitness reports before getting offended, don't you think?
His speech, originally announced as having the theme of how SCO can win in the courts was reportedly changed to another theme: "Free Software and the Fools Who Use It".
I'm sure he meant that in the nicest possible way, speaking of venomous bashing. Oh, and he suggested to those who wish to slam the company that they should get a clue and invest in the company instead. "It's the best investment you'll ever make." No kidding. That's what it's been reported he said. He has a position: "FUD is the mantra of the people who don't want to hear". He said Linux "spies" were in the room. If Linux was legitimate, they wouldn't need spies. Heh heh. But that wasn't the only reference to Groklaw on Day 2.
Darl, a little bird informs me, reportedly asked any in the crowd who post on Groklaw to stand up and be recognized. I don't know if the plan was to attack anyone standing up verbally or just have them dragged out, tried before a military tribunal and then shot at dawn. That might take too long. Maybe they'd just stone them to death on the spot. Anyway, if there were any Groklaw posters there, they were smart enough not to let themselves be goaded by him into responding.
And then Chris Sontag gave his speech all about how Groklaw is all wet and SCO does too have a chance to win the various lawsuits. "If you read Groklaw, you'd think our case was finished. Nothing could be farther from the truth." He then presented the SCO revisionist history of the various court cases. So, all in all, I'd say Groklaw is now SCO's Magnificent Obsession.
Mutual, I'm sure.
Chris Sontag announced that they are working to bundle a SCOsource license with UnixWare and OpenServer. That's one way to bump the numbers, huh? Since hardly anyone has bought so far, despite SCO telling us over and over that they only decided to offer the license because customers requested it, maybe bundling will get it out there. And perhaps some creative accounting will ensue.
And why are customers not clamoring for licenses so far? A most fascinating interview with McBride by Robert McMillan explains:
"IDG News Service: Why haven't more customers signed up for your SCOsource licensing program?
"Darl McBride: There have been a lot of third parties that have jumped into the fray and put indemnification programs in place -- big vendors coming out trying to say 'Don't worry about it, it's not a problem.'"
The McMillan interview includes some strong hints of a split into a litigation company, or as they put it a SCOsource company, and a Unix company someday:
"IDGNS: Would it make sense to split the company in two, with one part focusing on the core Unix business and the other focusing on SCOsource?
"McBride: Essentially we have done that internally. We pretty much have those divisions in place right now. The argument that you're bringing up, I have been asked about a fair number of times from the financial community: Does it make sense to have an actual organizational split? We haven't got to that point in our thinking yet, but we continue to look at all of our options as we continue down the road.
"I wouldn't rule it out in the future. I certainly understand the positive arguments for it. We haven't gotten to the point yet, where we think that is the play we should be taking on, but it could evolve to that point, and I could see a number of reasons why that would be a good play."
I wonder which company will get all the assets? They applied for the Unix System Laboratories trademark, he tells McMillan, because they want to go back to the same kind of USL licensing program of yore. "We think that there's a very bright future in the company to return to the model that we had in the past with Unix Systems Laboratories," McBride says. And you Unix greybeards can refresh my memory: Did USL ever make a profit on Unix licensing?
A few more details have emerged about SCOMarketplace, whereby they will invite developers to apply online and bid on work:
"On the software developer side of things, I believe there's going to be a move to a develop-for-fee model, rather than develop-for-free, which is currently in vogue. One announcement that we are making at the show is called the SCO Marketplace, and that's a marketplace exchange whereby we are going to allow developers to come and bid on work-for-hire projects that we have, to fill in the gaps where we're going with our development plan.
"We think in the future, software developers are going to be more motivated by getting paid for their work rather than contributing and not getting paid."
I interpret that to mean, you get to sell your soul twice over and you'll have very little in return. Making deals with the devil don't usually pay off, I don't think. As you can see, the Marketplace is entirely SCO's, because it's a work-for-hire arrangement, whereby they get your IP and everything else that could possibly be marketed, and maybe your firstborn too, and you get the fee and the honor of helping SCO out, after which you will be tainted by having seen Unix code, I expect, which would limit your ability to donate to FOSS, not to mention your employability.
Did they spend so much money on lawsuits, they don't have enough engineers now? The scheme seems to be an attempt to get the kind of numbers that you can only get in FOSS, and of course, being SCO, probably to try to undermine the free/open model. They believe that offering money will cause a lot of hungry-for-work coders to line up and that will be the end of Linux? I hear he asked the audience which would you rather do, work for money or work for free? And some folks who seemed to one observer to have been planted in the audience yelled out with forced gusto, We want money, and We want to be paid, and other silly things. Where do they find people willing to do that? McBride told McMillan the budget for SCOMarketplace will be in the millions "for starters", but when pressed he said the budget has yet to be determined. So I wouldn't run out and buy a new car yet, based on this promise of money falling on you from heaven.
The problem with Darl's vision is that even if some do sign up, needing money desperately or whatever, they can never duplicate the numbers working on FOSS. (There is also the issue that working for money instead of for the joy of it impacts the quality of the work. Yes. It does.) And numbers of developers are everything in software, as SCO's own Mr. Gupta acknowledged:
"Sandy Gupta, vice president of engineering at SCO, maintained that the initiative will help build a stronger relationship with external developers.
"'It is really important to have a strong developer programme around our products,' he said.
"Internal engineering teams at SCO will work on the core operating system technologies, while external developers can add to software available on SCO's platforms, the company claimed. SCO chairman and chief executive Darl McBride indicated that the initiative could lead to the development of an intellectual property marketplace, with SCO distributing applications developed by independent software vendors.
"'There are a lot of developers out there trying to work out how to get distribution and how to make money. Where SCO Marketplace goes is potentially quite exciting,' he said."
I am sure you are all duly excited. Especially all you ex-SCO engineers. Now you can bid online to do what you used to do inhouse with medical benefits and all. That would seem to be SCO's best hope of attracting outside contractors, all the layoffs who now may be having a hard time finding companies eager to hire SCO ex-employees. I genuinely feel for those guys.
With all the talk at SCOForum about new products, I found this of interest:
"Sandy Gupta, vice president of engineering at SCO, said: 'We knew we had to move both product lines forward.
"'Our engineering team can now work on one consolidated source. We can do more features, our independent software vendors can do more applications and our independent hardware vendors can do more drivers.'....
Jeff Hunsaker, senior vice president and general manager of the SCO Unix division, said: 'We are starting to provide clarity to our customers about the Unix division: that it is being modernised and it has a future.'
"He added that, until SCO's legal battles are over, the emphasis will be on upgrading existing customers."
I understand that to mean that the lawsuits are really interfering with their ability to move the Unix business forward at this time. And by the way, one of the products they announced started as a Linux product and then was ported to Unix:
"In addition to the release of the preview edition of OpenServer, SCO also made available OfficeServer 4.1, which targets the same customers as Microsoft's Windows Server products.
"Same Software, Different Kernel
"SCO Group says it derives about two thirds of its revenues from OpenServer. The application is based on SCO Unix, which first shipped in 1989. The current version, OpenServer 5, was launched in 1995. SCO estimates there are about 500,000 installs of its flagship product. . . .
"SCO has its sights set on Linux in the courtroom, as well as in the marketplace, and it is using a former Linux application to battle Microsoft on small-business terrain. Confusing? Of course it is. But it is not hard to decipher.
"OfficeServer was born as a Linux program in the 1990s, well before SCO became embroiled in lawsuits with IBM and Novell . SCO began developing OfficeServer in 1994 and eventually ported it over to Unix."
I thought I'd just get that on the record in case some MIT deep diver finds similar code someday. One report mentioned it as a great release for SCO, without mentioning its roots:
"SCO has even come up with the first new software program in years that its partners actually can sell to their existing legacy base: SCOoffice Server 4.1. This new program is a powerful but simple-to-use mail and collaboration server for OpenServer.
"Now, you may be asking, what's the big deal about a mail server? The big deal is that the customers of SCO VARs (value-added resellers) are a very conservative lot. They tend to be small businesses that use an operating system for one or two particular, vertical jobs.
"With SCOoffice 4.1, the resellers finally have something new they can offer their customers that they really want. Many resellers told me they already have customers waiting for SCOoffice."
On the company shift away from the litigation, they indicate it has been difficult to get the new word out, because of all of us Groklaw types talking about their litigation all the time:
"With that kind of attention, it has become difficult for SCO to make the transition toward highlighting its product, said Jeff Hunsaker, senior vice president of worldwide marketing. He told LinuxInsider, 'It's been hard to move the company in the direction of innovation. But months ago, we realized that our entire focus couldn't be what was happening in the courtroom.' . . .
"SCO's move toward focusing less on the litigation began with its employees, partners and customers several months ago, McBride said. When the case first began, McBride and other executives spent a great deal of time explaining why the company was undertaking legal action and what it hoped to gain. Shifting focus now is a challenge, he noted."
Let me ask you this: If they thought they were going to win, would they be shifting the focus away from the litigation? Here's the funniest part of this last report:
"The company is eager to make more worldwide efforts as well. 'Asia is everybody's diamond mine,' Hunsaker said. 'It's a huge market. We have partners in China, so we're in a good position.' He did acknowledge that recent moves by China and Japan toward Linux presented an obstacle for SCO's expansion in Asia. 'It's tough to fight for market share when you have the government pushing Linux,' he said."
Indeed. Poor things. The whole world, especially China, is going Linux. Those bullies. Everybody picks on SCO. In SCOland, the future is bright:
"While he positioned the company's legal efforts as its 'defense' of Unix, it's the Unix products team -- repeatedly pointed out as 95 per cent of the company's workforce -- that are to be its 'offense' in a battle to keep Unix alive, which is the overall theme for the quest McBride styled for SCO....
"He outright dismissed reports that SCO was 'losing' the case, saying that while the wheels of justice turn slowly, the company is confident it will prevail when the matter goes before the court in November of 2005.
"And while McBride admits that the company has lost market share, lost partners and customers over its perceived focus on litigation over innovation, he insists that [t]he company will be able to make back that ground and then some if it wins its legal battles, and told its remaining loyal partners that this battle is for them."
And how was all the SCO propaganda received? I'll let you be the judge. Here is a headline for you:
"Linux is mine, all mine, cackles distracted SCO head --
Darl McBride has no doubt he is right. It's just everybody else that is the problem".