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Users and resellers say SCO's news is good news

At conference, Unix vendor recharges customer enthusiasm

By Todd R. Weiss
August 20, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - LAS VEGAS -- After three years of operating system development slowdowns and corporate name changes, some SCO Unix users weren't quite sure what the company still offered to their businesses for the long haul.
But after a series of product announcements Aug. 18, as well as a new and clear road map for the continued development of its Unix core operating systems, The SCO Group Inc. has apparently recharged the enthusiasm and trust of many of its users, partners and resellers about where it's going and how it intends to get there (see story).
"The future was kind of uncertain until yesterday" about the status of SCO OpenServer, said Gaston Carrier, president of Quebec-based Multi-Solutions, an IT consulting business and SCO reseller. Carrier said he has about 50 customers running SCO OpenServer and now can reassure them that the company isn't abandoning its Unix business.
"I'm very confident that SCO will deliver the products that our customers need," he said. "The future seemed to me to be very dark ... when Caldera purchased the original SCO [in 2000]. OpenServer was to be obsolete because of Linux being the core business of Caldera."
Carrier was one of more than a dozen SCO customers, resellers and partners who shared their views yesterday at the conference here, which was held in the MGM Grand Hotel.
Tony Giovaniello, vice president of business development at Boundless Corp., a computer terminal manufacturer in Hauppauge, N.Y., said his company had been a SCO partner until about five years ago, when it began to look at alternatives including Microsoft Windows. Customers had been seeking Windows-based machines because of uncertainty about SCO Unix and its continued development, he said, but things are again changing.
"Now we've seen a period of recent history where we've seen some improvement," Giovaniello said. "We've seen a management team that's committed."
"I came away willing to invest in Unix" again, he said. "I was very pleased that SCO appears to be very committed to Unix, that there is a road map. It appears that it's a company that wants to partner, and therefore we should explore a lot of technical opportunities with them."
S. Arshad Raza, CEO of Premier Systems Ltd., a SCO reseller and systems integrator in Karachi, Pakistan, said he has worried for several years about the apparent end of SCO Unix, but he now has a renewed belief in the company's outlook. "When [customers] lost confidence in SCO," he said, they stopped paying him for licenses and bought and installed pirated copies of the operating system because they didn't feel they needed to pay money to a declining business. But that's now changing, he said, since SCO has filed an intellectual-property lawsuit against IBM, and customers are gaining new optimism.
What's needed, though, is for SCO to help him get the message across that it's back for real in the Unix business, Raza said. He said he needs someone from SCO to communicate the developments to his customers. "My mouth is not good enough."
Raza said his first objective will be to work closely with customers to get them to stop migrating to Linux and other operating systems after he assures them that SCO will be there to support them. "Marketing for new customers is Phase 2 of the project," he said.
Jim Gadow, a systems analyst at medical software vendor Practice Management Services in Silver Spring, Md., said he was impressed with SCO's newfound swagger. "They seem to be very confident that they have themselves grounded again. My concern was I really wanted to see their direction. We'd gone so far as to look at different platforms," in case SCO wouldn't be viable in the future, he said, adding that those worries have now dissipated.
John Moore, president of Moore Computer Consultants in Pembroke Pines, Fla., said Lindon, Utah-based SCO renewed his faith at the show.
"If I had any doubts before yesterday, as far as I'm concerned, they erased them," he said. "The real question is what happens next."
"I like the direction they're going in," Moore said. "We want to grow, too. We don't want to stay small forever."
William Green, a design consultant at WAN, LAN and server services business Pro-Active Technologies in Huntington Beach, Calif., said he's "thrilled" that SCO is moving ahead with upgrades to OpenServer. "I think one way or another, they're going to be there," whatever the results of the lawsuit against IBM, he said.
A senior account manager at a Rocky Mountain regional reseller who asked that his name be withheld said he's "upbeat" about SCO's newly charted direction, especially after having "problems in the marketplace" when he tried to sell products from Caldera International Inc. to customers in the two years after SCO became Caldera. "No one knew Caldera," he said. "They knew SCO."
"I had very strong concerns about whether they would survive, with or without the lawsuit. I do not have those concerns at this time" after hearing SCO's strategy at the conference, he said.
A senior manager at a U.S.-based SCO partner company, who also asked to remain anonymous, said the explanations of the IBM legal fight presented at the conference by SCO executives, including CEO and President Darl McBride, were helpful to better understand the complex issues behind the intellectual property case. "If anyone was sitting on the fence yesterday [about SCO's future], then they would have come out of here feeling much better about SCO," he said. "I know I did."

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