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SCO: From software vendor to free-falling litigation machine

By Paul Coletti
November 15, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - When I joined Novell back in 1995, it had just offloaded Unix. The dream of creating a super network operating system out of NetWare and Unix had turned out, like so many initiatives before it, to have been no more than a nice little side project for honing the coding skills of Novell's then-chief scientist and his cronies; commercial viability was less than an afterthought.
The CEO at the time had more important things on his mind -- like getting Novell back to its core objectives. I remember the departing Unix engineers as being somewhat disappointed in the deal but pleased that the network operating system they loved had gone to a company committed to Unix. Most of the lads I briefly knew were off to work for SCO in its various locations around the world and were looking forward to the challenge ahead -- making Unix even better than it already was.
How times change. SCO has altered its name, ownership and strategy a few times since then, but can there be any employees, backers or customers who still genuinely believe that SCO's main commitment is to making its primary product better? Selling some of it would be a nice start. But try telling that to Darl McBride, SCO's tough-guy CEO, who swaggers around like a red-faced schoolyard bully with Tourette's syndrome. SCO has one objective right now -- litigation. And it's proved itself pretty good at it in the past. Unfortunately, now that SCO has gotten a taste for blood, it wants more and so has decided to go for a big target. And next to Microsoft, the juiciest tuna in the sea is IBM. It's a damn sight easier than setting out a business plan, displaying leadership, recruiting and training dedicated staffers, and generating revenue from an operating system and related products. SCO executives have done their sums and decided that competing in the cutthroat world of software isn't for them; they'd rather cut throats in the soft world of the courtroom. Red Hat, VA Linux and all the other ex-SCO competitors must be heaving sighs of relief at a loss of focus unheard of since the Hubble telescope went doolally.
SCO isn't the first to take a gamble. Many companies have banked everything on a single big idea (remember WordPerfect?) only to come undone, but to bet all you have on the outcome of a court case (and an intellectual property case, at that) is straying so far into the bounds of uncertainty that I expect that SCO's lawyers

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