VARs Frown Upon SCO Group's Legal Maneuvering

Threats to Linux customers thought to be part of plan to be acquired

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Solution providers blasted The SCO Group's decision to threaten Linux customers with legal action.

The company last week advised about 1,500 companies that they could be liable for using the open-source operating system, which SCO alleges infringes on its own Unix-based intellectual property. SCO also said last week that it is exiting the Linux market.

"I've never seen a company so absolutely commit suicide in public. I am stunned," said Anthony Awtrey, vice president at I.D.E.A.L. Technology, an Orlando, Fla., integrator.

>> SCO alleges that open-source Linux infringes on its own Unix-based intellectual property.


Solution providers said it makes no sense for a company to sue or threaten to sue customers. Many maintain that SCO's tactic, along with the lawsuit it launched against IBM in March charging that the computer behemoth illegally used SCO technology, is part of an effort to be acquired. "They're trying to get IBM to buy them," Awtrey said. "I have no doubt about it, and they don't care who they make as enemies in the process."

SCO has denied that it is trying to be bought. Company President and CEO Darl McBride said last week that reaction to the warning letters was swift and unsettling. Web postings threatened company offices with drive-by shootings, and security was tightened as a result, he said. "The immaturity that this crowd is showing is not very impressive," McBride told CRN.

Mike Marriner, president of Retail Navigator, a Laguna Beach, Calif.-based Linux VAR, was more measured than some other partners. "I figure there will be some negotiation with the [Linux] community," Marriner said. "I'd like to see SCO focus its energy on servicing the customers who need the kinds of service it can provide."

Frivolous or not, the specter of lawsuits waged by SCO, which hired superstar lawyer David Boies to litigate against IBM, is worrisome to customers and solution providers.

"This is the risk of open source. You'll either have prior art rolled into the environment or it will so closely derive from that IP that a claim can be made, and that puts the entire community at risk," said Richard Warren, vice president and chief solutions architect at Susquehanna Technologies, Winchester, Va. "Before, it was a no-brainer to use," Warren said. "It was free and everyone in the world supported it for you. But if you get your boss sued, it's a different story."

Many solution providers said the latest Linux strife plays into the hands of Microsoft, which has predicted that Linux, like Unix before it, would fragment.

SCO, which projects net income of $4 million for its second fiscal quarter ended April 30, has struggled, seeing its once-leading share of the x86 Unix market dwindle to 20 percent of new Unix licenses shipped in 2001 from 36 percent in 1999, according to market-research firm IDC.

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