Notes from the SCO Road show
I decided to go to the SCO "City to City Tour" (%s/City to City/Farewell/g) out of morbid curiosity - what did SCO say about itself? I was especially interested to see if the time allotted to "roadmap" would even mention shippable product (o; It was interesting - not exactly as I expected, but interesting nonetheless. Highly recommended.
And apparently easy to attend. 64 seats, less than 20 attendees. Considering that when I applied I went to a waiting list, I was expecting a higher turnout ... it may be worth putting yourself on the list for future stops of the show ...
Grandest cheese at the presentation was VP of Marketing, Jeff Hunsaker. He started out with an hour the company's report card & backgrounder. Here's the view of SCO painted: 330 employees, 2+ million deployed units (no mention of OS breakdown - would be interesting to see what % of that is Caldera Linux), target market is small-ish business. Reference accounts seem to be franchised fast food & drug oriented. Think Pizza Hut & Wallgreens (Arnold Clarke & Argos were UK references, Shoppers Drug thrown in for us Canuks). Nothing IT-intensive. Avaya & Lucent were mentioned on the laundry list, however no detail was given, and I cannot imagine descendants of AT&T paying too much to some guys in Utah for hideous product (searches on their sites for SCO only brings mention of their "Special Customer Operations" group).
Oddly enough, market cap & stock price were mentioned extensively (who'd have thought?). Reference was made to using their capitalization as a means of acquisition; however no details were given (assuming there were any details to give). The fabled '2 quarters of profitability' was also mentioned. The name Caldera was dragged through the dirt, as they were never profitable. From the slides you'd think SCO had roots much, much deeper than the MS Xenix junk they spawned from. In fact, the analogy they whip out is that of Harley-Davidson (HD was purchased by AMF, went to hell, then arose re-branded as the mega-label you know today). I refrained from pointing out that pre/post-AMF Harley produced respected product, and did not send threatening letters to Yamaha owners ...
Mention of the legal battle? Nothing technical. Representatives were up-front about their lack of legal knowledge, and inability to comment. It never got past the mud-slinging stage. Same old, same old. Their interest is in protecting their IP. This is about a breach of contract. Linux 2.4 code review shows Monterrey-esqe code relating to memory-access that must have come from AIX 5L. Caldera Linux customers are indemnified against legal action. Blah blah blah.
Their definition of IP (I've never seen a formal definition, and so some of the things on the list amused mildly): Copyright, Contracts, Methods, Trade Secrets, and Know-how (Know-how? How about "stuff we have" - can that be a IP subject too?). Their mention of McBride making some soon-to-be-published "top 5 influential executives list" (that'll be a keeper of an article). And heavy mention of HP's support. Reference was made to their web site removing their logo, however they emphatically associate SCOs current operations and HP's approval. Nothing to substantiate, however.
Really interesting bits?
The crowd. I was expecting Linux zealots. It was mostly a room full of SCO resellers. And they were not too big on having a love in. Nothing hostile, however not one positive comment for the morning's session. During the "we be so profitable" section of the spiel, one reseller in the crowd asked "where does the money come from?" The response was largely a pointer to the SCO source initiative. The response? "What you are profitable in will not make me profitable.". Wow. That was good. One raised the points that this quibble is hurting his business. SCO's stance is that they'd love to settle this tomorrow (har har). Stance not bought by aforementioned reseller - the paraphrased retort was 'litigation will resolve nothing
that I am interested in. SCO needs to adapt to the times, or it will perish'. Wow wow. People seem to get this. I like it.
Some new "this is why IBM is evil" quotes. At least to me. Turns out SCO is broadcasting these from their SCO source pages, however I had not seen these up to this point. I thought all they tried to sling were the RMS & Perens mis-quotes about Linux being a brilliant hack from an unaccountable community (the old quotes page has been gone for a bit - anyone have a link to an archived copy?).
Also of interest was SCO's roadmap. For two reasons.
One, they intend to do great things. They have a plan to create an environment by end of next year that spans from device drivers to application middleware.
330 people in Utah. Sure. They also have a vision of monstrous market shares. How monstrous? Two billion in web services. Those with even a small memory will remember that the IBM suit is targeted at three billion. To their credit, they didn't place a timeline on this number.
The other reason the roadmap was entertaining? I now know how retro SCOs OSes are. Riotous, riotous stuff. How they had the ya-yas to declare Linux an infant OS in need of their IP is beyond me. Upcoming features? PAM. files larger than 2 gigs. NFS over TCP. The 80's called, they want their features back. NTPv4 was a listed big feature on a slide of 10 to 15 upcoming enhancements. How does an NTP enhancement get mentioned as a 'big' feature? Wow. I never knew it was this bad. Maybe I should lend my old 486 running Debian from '97 to Pizza Hut - it sounds like they could use the upgrade. Even the guy presenting was a leelte embarrassed by the state of the OS. When mentioning PAM support his comment was "finally!". A
crowd member picked up on this & asked "when you say 'PAM - finally!', who are you implying you are behind?". The response was pretty generic, other than to
point out that rigorous certification testing was a portion of the delay. Also of note was the volume of OpenSource software in the box - OpenSSL/SSH, Apache, Samba, CUPS, Gimp-print, bash ... you name it. Maybe their idea of building a super-OS involves a fistful of RPMs. He tried to convey his amazement at the fantastic future of UnixWare by telling the crowd that they would someday be able to print in colour from their colour
printer (thanks to features in gimp-print).
Mention was also made in the road map of a new online update service (big whoop), and SmallFoot, which is a "Retail Hardened POS solution" (their words, not
mine). When did "you want fries with that?" become associated with the five 9's of reliability? For the live update, he actually walked us through how you would set up an account to use the service, another indication that SCOs internal force has missed the last couple of years of the Internet (how could this be
interesting to anyone there?).
What do I take away from this?
Apart from copies Lone Tar & BackupEDGE, not a whole lot. I could have stayed for the free t-shirts (nothing says 'this is between SCO & IBM' more than the slogan "is unix
in your linux?"), but that would have meant some boring slides. Entertaining, but no new insights, other than a peek at the people behind the corporation.
Being the VP of Global Marketing (a shame we couldn't get inter-global marketing to show up, but hey, we're only Toronto), Hunsaker digressed while discussing how SCO has reduced OpEx about how fantastic the whole Linux whacking has been for his company in the news. And I quote: "You couldn't buy better coverage". And he's right. Truthfully I thought SCO was a non-entity before this bicker began. It's amazing how far a group can get on a comedy suit. It'll be interesting to see when & where this winds up.