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SCO, SCO, Bad

As this issue of Linux Magazine goes to print, the biggest story in the Linux world is SCO's "not less than" $1 billion law suit against IBM. News of the suit spread quickly over Web, blogs, and wire. InfoWorld ran the headline, "SCO Sues IBM Over Linux," while c|net wrote, "SCO Sues Big Blue over Unix, Linux."

As this issue of Linux Magazine goes to print, the biggest story in the Linux world is SCO’s “not less than” $1 billion law suit against IBM. News of the suit spread quickly over Web, blogs, and wire. InfoWorld ran the headline, “SCO Sues IBM Over Linux,” while c|net wrote, “SCO Sues Big Blue over Unix, Linux.”

My first reaction to the announcement was, “Ugh!” I just couldn’t imagine the words “sue,” “misappropriation,” and “Linux” in the same sentence leading to anything positive. I imagined fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) oozing from newspapers, Web sites, and TV screens everywhere.

And indeed, there was an immediate wave of questions and confusion following the announcement. Do SCO’s claims have merit? Does IBM’s Linux contain SCO code? Do the major distributions contain portions of the Unix source code?

Even if you don’t believe SCO, all of those questions are valid and should be answered by IBM if for no other reason than the good of Linux. Unfortunately, those questions are unanswerable at this point. While SCO’s complaint has many allegations, SCO hasn’t revealed any evidence supporting its claims, leaving analysts, reporters, and the entire Linux community to conjecture about the merits and validity of the case and about SCO’s rationale.

Bruce Perens conjectured that SCO simply wants to be acquired and hopes to leverage this otherwise nuisance suit into a juicy buyout offer.

Others posited that SCO was simply using the suit to force IBM to renegotiate its Unix license more quickly and more earnestly (translating into more money for SCO), keeping IBM from dropping Unix completely. And some saw the suit as just the first in a series of cases designed to keep SCO afloat — suing instead of selling to turn a profit.

More ominously, others weighed in suggesting that if SCO were successful, Linux vendors and the Linux community at-large could be greatly and negatively impacted. And not missing an opportunity to capitalize on the FUD, Sun Microsystems bragged, saying that unlike AIX, Solaris was unencumbered by any licensing issues. (Sun bought out its Unix license some time ago, as did HP.)

So, after a few days of reading and listening to news, including wildly polar statements and accusations from IBM and SCO, my reaction is still, “Ugh!” If SCO meant to get attention, they certainly succeeded. Trouble is that a black cloud has settled over Linuxville and is likely to hang there until the litigants have their day in court. Even though Torvalds and Stallman have heartily rejected SCO’s claims, saying that Linux and GNU are “clean,” the FUD is out of the bag.

But in an ironic twist of fate, a suit that SCO’s pinning hopes and revenue on may ultimately be their undoing. I’m not one to harbor animosity, but in this case, perhaps the cloud really has a silver lining.

As SuSE CEO Richard Seibt said, “We at SuSE were greatly disappointed to learn of the SCO Group’s recent actions…While we strongly believe that this does not impact Linux, we are concerned that these actions are not in the best interest of customers, partners, and the Linux community. Accordingly, we are currently re-evaluating our relationship with the SCO Group.”

All I can say is, “Ditto.” Although I wouldn’t have been quite so polite.


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Martin Streicher, Editor

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