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SCO Group: Prolonging death or what?
By: Scott Bradner
Two weeks ago it looked like The SCO Group was going down for the count. They had lost a key decision in their suit against Novell, declared bankruptcy and were quickly running out of money. Then on Valentine's Day, along came a knight, color yet to be determined, to sweep them away. Since it is very hard to see what this knight might have seen in this distressed damsel (to carry the analogy far too far) we are exploring a territory normally left to conspiracy theorists.
Regular readers of this column know that I am no fan of The SCO Group and their business model built on trying to destroy open source software. (See, for example, "Slime for sale" http://www.sobco.com/nww/2003/bradner-2003-05-26.html) Patents and copyright are important rights, well founded in the U.S. Constitution, which espoused them to "promote the progress of science and useful arts." This promotion only holds true if these rights are honestly applied. Rather than being honest, The SCO Group tried to use bluster and gross distortion against IBM and the open source community in an amoral push for personal enrichment. Indeed, if The SCO Group could have shown that millions of lines of protected Unix code (as they once claimed) had been surreptitiously snuck into Linux the Linux community might have been a world of hurt. But The SCO Group, like Microsoft (see Microsoft: Invisible patents as a uniform - http://www.networkworld.com/columnists/2007/052107bradner.html), first refused to show anyone the stolen code and, in the end, were only able to point to a few hundred lines of what seems to be mostly public header files. But despite being shown up as false braggarts The SCO Group marched on until being given a vary large dose of reality by the courts and having the foundation of their case pulled out from under them. See "SCO Group: Mini-Me trying to be Darth Vader "- http://www.networkworld.com/columnists/2007/081407-bradner.html.)
It looked like The SCO Group was finally in their painful (to them) end game when they filed for bankruptcy back in September 2007. Then, out of left field, came the announcement that Stephen Norris Capital Partners (SCNP) appears to have found some reason to throw real money into this pit. Their press release said "SNCP has developed a business plan for SCO that includes unveiling new product lines aimed at global customers. This reorganization plan will also enable the company to see SCO's legal claims through to their full conclusion." (http://ir.sco.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=294412) SNCP's Memorandum of Understanding with The SCO group (http://www.groklaw.net/pdf/SCOGBK-346ExA.pdf) is more than a bit dense but clearly says that SNCP will buy a controlling interest in The SCO Group for $5 M and guess that the Novell and IBM cases might cost up to $30 M. So they get whatever products the real folks at The SCO Group have been working on while management has been tilting at open source windmills for maybe $35 M.
But are those products worth even $35 M? It would be hard for anyone watching The SCO Group's non-performance over the last few years to think so. It is just this kind of illogical action that breed conspiracy theories like wildfire. I expect there are a few thousand people trying to find some link between SCNP and Microsoft right now since Microsoft seems to be the primary beneficiary of prolonging the attack on open source software that The SCO Group was waging so ineptly, and because Microsoft was implicated in a previous investment. (http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20061008-7932.html)
Back in August I thought that the only SCO Group column I'd be writing in the future would be an obituary, sadly that proved not to be the case.
disclaimer: About the only thing that seems to run in Harvard time is the US legal system but the above review and puzzle is mine not Harvard's.