The wicked witch is dead


SCO logo

I consider myself to be a very patient person (all things considered) - but one thing that causes me to lose my patience is when I hear of proprietary computer companies that spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in order to keep their customers from considering other (and usually much better) technologies.

While Microsoft has been the main purveyor of FUD since the early 1990s, SCO used FUD in an attempt to downplay the Linux operating system.

Before I tell you about it, I should make an important clarification: The company named SCO today is not the SCO of the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s, the California-based SCO (Santa Cruz Operations) was a reseller of Xenix UNIX, but then branched out and created a UNIX of their own for the Intel platform (SCO UNIX).

SCO UNIX was a successful UNIX in the 1980s and 1990s since it ran on cheap hardware (Intel i386). You could see SCO UNIX in various smaller organizations (like behind the counter at your Shopper’s Drugmart pharmacy) and in college curriculum (our college used it heavily). I liked SCO UNIX myself (although not as much as other UNIXes), and I am a certified SCO Master ACE (Advanced Computing Expert) three times over.

SCO also came out with another UNIX product (OpenServer) as well as bought UnixWare and the UNIX source code from Novell in 1995 (Novell bought all rights to UNIX from AT&T UNIX Systems Laboratories in 1992). This 1995 sale of UNIX source code to SCO did not include the UNIX copyright. Instead, the written agreement stated that SCO collect any UNIX copyright payments and forward 95% of those payments to Novell.

Here is what happened to SCO after 1995:

SCO lost tons of business because everyone starting moving to Linux in the late 1990s (which was then widely available on the i386 platform).

After dismal sales, Caldera bought SCO in 2000. Caldera is a company started by a mad man bent on selling Linux (Caldera later found that this was impossible).

Caldera’s sales and product line were dismal at best between 2001 and 2003 (again due to Linux). They re-branded themselves as “The SCO Group” to help industry recognition. Most people thought that this tarnished the SCO name because this “new” SCO was an entirely different company with entirely different people based in Utah (the SCO of the 1980s/1990s was in California).

The “new” SCO tried to spread FUD against Linux. Thinking that they owned the UNIX copyright (which they did not), they sent hundreds of letters to companies stating that using Linux violated their UNIX copyright.

The “new” SCO tried to recoup “lost revenue” by suing IBM in 2003 (an easy target because they made the most money from Linux by shipping it with their servers and supporting it). SCO claimed that IBM stole and copied their source code (which is ridiculous and near impossible to prove). The whole SCO vs IBM lawsuit hinged on the premise that SCO owned the UNIX copyright. Publicly, it looked as if IBM brushed SCO off at the time.

The SCO vs IBM case was caught up in the red tape of the court system from 2004-2007. During this time, it was widely considered that SCO had no case and was an evil company (SCO quickly became a bad word in the IT vocabulary).

On August 10th 2007, the court system found that SCO did not own the UNIX copyright. The courts simply read the Bill of Sale during the 1995 transaction which clearly stated that Novell owned UNIX and should receive 95% of all UNIX royalties collected by SCO.

SCO is dead in the water - they have no case, and they now owe Novell $25 million in unpaid UNIX copyright royalties (which puts their company value into the negative)!

I still have many SCO plaques, certifications and awards on my desk. I am not going to throw them out because the SCO that I received them from was the SCO of the 1990s - I have good memories of them and I liked them as a company before Caldera bought them.

The “new” SCO is evil. I imagine that they will be insolvent by the end of the year - a fate I think is fair of any company that spreads FUD.