SCO fuels Web services play with acquisition

The SCO Group has found time amid its litigation efforts to make an acquisition, snapping up software startup, Vultus, in a move to bolster its ambitions in the Web services arena.

Vultus' product line-up includes the Web Face Solution Suite, a development environment for creating rich user interfaces for Web-based applications. The acquisition forms a key element of SCOx, a set of recently launched products that allow SCO and its resellers to build Web services applications for businesses based on SCO's version of Unix, the company said.

Web services use standard technologies such as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and XML (Extensible Markup Language) to link disparate business applications in a way that's supposed to be cheaper and more flexible than using proprietary messaging systems. IBM, BEA Systems, Microsoft and dozens of other vendors are also promoting tools and services for the emerging model.

SCO said it acquired the assets, engineering personnel and technology of Vultus "recently" for an undisclosed sum. The companies didn't have to go far to work out the deal: Both are based in London, Utah. The acquisition marks a "strategic step" in SCO's effort to create a Web services framework that it can offer customers, SCO's senior vice-president of marketing, Jeff Hunsaker, said.

SCO has embarked on a controversial litigation campaign over what it views as the widespread theft of its intellectual property related to Unix. The company has filed a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against IBM over the matter and, more recently, has demanded licensing fees from enterprises using Linux.

One analyst said the legal controversy, and particularly SCO's demand for licensing fees from Linux users, won't help it to win customers for its products.

"Regardless of the technology they have, there are a lot of enterprises that are going to be ticked off with them. Some of them are receiving these letters (demanding license fees for Linux)," an analyst with RedMonk, Stephen O'Grady, said.

"There's a perception among companies we've spoken to that SCO is really out to get acquired or to make their money off of licensing schemes rather than technologies," he said. "That's an obstacle to adoption of their products."

SCO has said it remains committed to supporting its customers, and appears intent on building out its product portfolio.

The Web Face Solution Suite it acquired can be used to create a user interface for Web service applications that doesn't require a user to install plug-ins or Java, the company said.

It can be used with platforms including BEA WebLogic and IBM WebSphere, and works in both Java and .Net environments.

Along with the Web Face Solution Suite, SCO picked up Vultus' professional services team trained in Web application development, which SCO considers a significant part of the deal.

The company was targeting Web services as "a platform for growth" and would expand on its plans at its SCO Forum conference, planned for August 17-20 in Las Vegas, Hunsakar said.