SCO chief pledges to focus on innovation

With numerous copyright infringement lawsuits against IBM, Novell and others still winding through the courts, The SCO Group opened its annual SCO Forum reseller conference by stressing its 26-year commitment to its core Unix technologies and products.

Even as detractors continue to label SCO as dead in the IT waters because of its two-year-old legal attacks on alleged Unix code infringement inside Linux, CEO and President Darl McBride pumped up his company's core resellers with the message that SCO will prevail.

"There's a lot of folks out there trying to say that SCO's claims are not even alive," McBride told a crowd of several hundred here in the convention center at the MGM Grand Hotel. "Until we get into the courtroom, you're going to continue to see the spread of FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] about SCO's legal case and our viability as a company."

Since 2003, when SCO filed its original lawsuit against IBM alleging infringement of massive amounts of System V Unix code, the company has been demonized in much of the IT world and hit by tough fiscal times as income shrank and legal bills soared.

But with those legal fees now capped in a deal with its attorneys, SCO's financial picture is brightening, McBride said. "This is a sustainable model at this point," he said.

A trial date has been set in the IBM case for February 2007, and SCO's legal team is now preparing for expected depositions from IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano, McBride said. "We do look forward to having our claims heard in that case."

McBride said his company is operating profitably and has been generating cash for the last five fiscal quarters, with core Unix profitability expected by the end of the fiscal year. "We're not just focusing on litigation; we're focusing on innovation as well," he said.

Since June, SCO has been shipping its reinvigorated SCO OpenServer 6 Unix operating system, which underwent three years of development to provide new features to customers. The software, called Legend, aims at modernising the company's core product, which targets small and medium-size businesses. It supports file sizes up to 1TB, increases memory support from 4GB to 64GB, and adds new security features and performance enhancements.

Throughout his address Monday, McBride attacked Linux as having a "volunteer fire department support model," which he said isn't as robust or reliable as SCO Unix, and criticised Linux as the "free" operating system that costs more to buy and run than SCO Unix because of high maintenance fees. Also giving SCO Unix a boost is the fact that OpenServer 6 is backward-compatible with applications all the way back to Xenix, giving customers more flexibility in using legacy applications, he said.

"It's a huge deal to your customers," he said, "because what it allows them to do is not have to throw out their applications every time a new operating system [revision] comes out." That's not always the case with new versions of Linux, he said. "When you buy SCO Unix, you're ready to run. When you buy Linux, get ready for high maintenance."

So far, McBride said, reactions about the refreshed product from customers and analysts has been good. "I think the movement is going to start to come back our way," McBride said. "We don't want to just be profitable. We want to grow. We want to turn into a growth company.