Software giant to license code as SCO's battle with IBM heats up
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As part of a deal unveiled last week, Microsoft said it will license SCO's Unix patents and source code to show support for the intellectual property rights of all vendors and ensure compatibility between its Windows operating system and Unix/Linux platforms. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. The previous week, SCO had created a stir by confirming that it sent a warning letter about potential intellectual property violations to 1,500 corporate customers using Linux distributions.
Some industry observers said Microsoft is joining forces with SCO to slow the advance of a common enemy: Linux. But Microsoft executives said the issues SCO raises are substantial.
While experts question the merits of SCO's claims, the Lindon, Utah-based company's recent maneuvers are key to the case. One source close to SCO said IBM's legal team "is in discussions about possible discussions" with SCO to settle the case.
"It's a way of putting more pressure on IBM," said Tom Carey, a partner and chair of the business department at Bromberg & Sunstein, a Boston-based law firm. "There is a dollar amount that will make this go away, and [it's] probably less than $1 billion. To the extent that IBM runs into problems making new [Linux] sales because of the overhang of this issue, they feel it might be easier to pay off SCO than fight this lawsuit."
Solution providers said the battle is getting ugly. "These guys at SCO are making themselves a puppet of [Microsoft Chairman] Bill Gates," said Anthony Awtrey, vice president of integration at I.D.E.A.L. Technology, Orlando, Fla. "The biggest threat Microsoft can raise against the OS and Linux is the specter of [intellectual property] contamination. Now we're seeing it played out in the market, even though Microsoft has its hands clean."
Added Ron Herman, president of Blue Chip Computer Systems & Consulting, Los Angeles: "The old SCO should have put their foot down a long time ago on these licenses. It seems opportunistic for SCO and a great deal for Microsoft."
In an e-mail response to CRN, Linux founder Linus Torvalds said he'll reserve judgment until SCO identifies the Unix code that IBM allegedly misappropriated. "I haven't seen anything that would imply that IBM has done anything wrong. So until I hear otherwise, I'm just assuming it's just a case of business as usual,when [SCO] can't make it in the market, sue and go after the deep pockets," he said.