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SCO's McBride: "I'd Sue IBM Again 10 Times Over"

Top analyst implies IBM's an IP cheat

SCO CEO Darl McBride, the second most hated man in America after George Bush, says life since suing IBM has been "untenable suffering," but, comparing himself to Wesley, the pure-hearted, wrongs-righting hero in the movie "Princess Bride," said he would do it again 10 times over.

"I may be wrong on this point," he said, using a Charles Barkley line (you know, the basketball player) and meaning the ultimate success of his $5 billion suit against IBM, "but I doubt it."

Darl was reflecting for the benefit of the people who came to Las Vegas for SCO Forum, which just happened to be running at the same time as the Linux establishment was staging LinuxWorld Conference & Expo miles away in San Francisco.

SCO spent half of this particular SCO Forum explaining its legal position to the hundreds of diehard SCO resellers who showed up for the event, now in its 25th year - something LinuxWorld will never get to see if SCO has its way.

The cage-rattling apex of SCO's exegesis was the keynote given by Rob Enderle, the gadfly market analyst known for his ability to turn a phrase. Enderle, who is said to rank as the single most influential pundit around, called his talk "Free Software and the Fools Who Use It."

In a way, Enderle's got a dog in the SCO-IBM fight.

See, last year when he was still working for the Forrester Research-acquired Giga Information Group, where he was its only senior research fellow, he brought down the wrath of IBM on his head - IBM was a Giga-Forrester client - by insisting on talking to SCO and sizing up SCO's case for himself.

It all started because he was editing a Linux newsletter that Giga produced that had a subscriber of one - namely IBM - and the girl who was writing it needed a lot of fact-checking and rewrites for clarity.

She also argued in the newsletter that SCO had no evidence of copied code, which seemed plain silly to Enderle, who figured you'd probably have to be suicidal to go up against IBM even with evidence.

Well, he knew SCO and he didn't think SCO had that kind of a death wish, and then he came to find out that the analyst writing the newsletter had never talked to SCO about its evidence. Heck, she had never talked to SCO period.

So he did - despite the fact that "I have, too date, never seen more effort go into preventing me from having a single meeting than what happened after" he arranged to see SCO.

Well then, all hell broke loose, he said, when he decided that the SCO case had its merits - and should be heard.

He said he was told "to forget it" and "never talk about it again."

Well, needless to say he wouldn't - "opinions for hire" have always left a bad taste in his mouth - and he and Forrester ultimately parted ways, which is how Enderle said he came to start the Enderle Group and to be working for himself after all these years.

But Enderle's really a treasure because back before he turned analyst he worked at IBM as a "chief auditor" among other things like holding jobs in finance, being assigned to IBM legal and running a competitive analysis lab. He was in fact an IBM golden boy bound for executive glory - and he basically told that the SCO crowd that, judging from his experience working there, IBM's carefully honed image as walking with God when it came to how it treated IP was b.s. and that IBM Software "of all the divisions, is the most likely to have broken the rules."

He said he had "no direct evidence" that IBM pilfered SCO's code for the benefit of Linux, but left the impression that to come to that view wouldn't take a great leap of imagination.

"I'm only an ex-IBM senior auditor-in-charge," he said "who used to have a nose for trouble but that nose seldom failed me and I smell something really rotten in this deal."

He said that during his tenure at IBM - which included a year spent trying to spin out the IBM Software Company so it could compete with Microsoft - "I saw us falsify internal reports to make key units look better while putting key customers at critical risk, I saw us mistreat partners because they didn't behave the way we wanted them to, and I had first hand experience of employee abuse that, to this day, even I find hard to believe. None of this would have been known to executive management had I not reported it."

He also remembers IBM trying to co-opt Windows with OS-2 and AIX.

He allowed that "IBM had, and has, the strongest ethics policies and the most severe penalties for violating them of any company I've ever studied and I learned you can't manage by policy, you manage through leadership and oversight and if you don't have that, you either will have a sick company or you already do. In the end I learned that the vast majority of employees at IBM are really good people who don't lift their heads up and look around enough to make a real difference."

He figures that what probably happened was that "IBM made some very bad choices with regard to Linux and SCO, that just like Apple and HP's legal teams had suggested caution or outright avoidance, IBM's legal team also made recommendations but theirs were not followed and what we are looking at with SCO and IBM is only part of the result."

"This is one of the reasons I believe SCO has a case," he said. "I know the kinds of mistakes any big company, and especially IBM, can make and to what extreme lengths executives will go to cover them up. You just have to look at Enron, WorldCom and Martha Stewart to get a sense of how power unchecked can corrupt."

The only way to find out what happened, he said, is to try the case, something the Linux community would like to avoid.

Enderle had a few choice words for the Linux community, particularly the Groklaw web site that dropped in out of nowhere shortly after SCO sued IBM.

As far as Enderle's concerned it's a crowd of bullyboy "zombies," who - he said - use brown shirt-style tactics to shout down and threaten physical violence against anyone with an opinion that doesn't conform with theirs - which are invariably narrow, biased, uninformed, hardcore open source and rabidly anti-SCO.

SCO, by the way, believes that Groklaw is an IBM front-operation meant to inflame public passions while IBM keeps its skirts clean by aloofly declining any comment on the case at any time.

Enderle similarly dismissed Groklaw as an "anti-SCO FUD propaganda site" and said he's beginning to say its followers as victims" who are being "tricked on a daily basis" into wasting their time helping generate more propaganda that hurts people who actually work for a living rather than doing something productive with their lives.

Enderle was pretty sure Groklaw had a few "spies" at his speech - (they did manage to trash Darl's keynote but evidently missed Enderle's appearance or chose not to cover it) - and said he doesn't care much for the physical threats that Groklaw and the open source community practice and wouldn't care to live in any of those places where dissent is illegal.

See, he's been on the receiving end of their brand of thought control and he's come to see the Linux community as a bunch of "thugs" and "criminals."

Enderle's job, family and life were threatened back when he was still with Giga and wrote a column for Information Week in which he recounted how he had found that a CIO had deployed Linux in her company on the basis of a religious belief that Linux was ready for the enterprise simply because enterprises needed to stand up against Microsoft and not on any objective measure, or any real analysis at all, just open source rhetoric. (She wound up quitting out of fear she would be fired when her management found out she hadn't done her job.)

Anyway, the point of Enderle's piece was simply to showcase the dangers of not properly justifying a decision, any decision, but it was perceived as an attack on Linux and as a result Enderle was personally attacked on a level he'd never seen before. His computer was flooded with viruses and hate mail. Forrester was threatened to a level they had never seen before too and wound up ordering Enderle never to write about Linux again, something Enderle said he had never seen happen before.

That directive contributed to his leaving Forrester and Giga, he says. Opinions for hire are bad enough. Opinions because of personal threat are much worse.

Anyway, Enderle's basic premise was that free software ain't free - or else IBM couldn't have brought in a billion dollars on the back of what was unlikely to have been more than a million Linux seats now could it? "You do the math," he said, "It may be a lot of things, but it sure as hell ain't free."

His other point was that SCO should be able to have its day in court without being drawn and quartered for it first.

In a piece on Enderle's site he's says there's doubtlessly copied code in Linux - it is after all a Unix rewrite - but that who the code belongs to is a question that belongs in court, more now than ever since the Linux community's idea now seems to be to kill SCO before it gets to court.

He says he's "surprised the anti-racketeering laws haven't kicked in by now as this really does feel very similar to what happens when you go after any criminal organization. The risks become personal and there is a good chance you won't make it to court."

In that same piece he also says that "In talking with an increasing number of reporters a similar pattern emerges. They are neutral (if not slightly on the open source side), they are assigned a Linux-related story, some part of what they write is not acceptable to the Linux community, they are attacked, and they form a belief that the Linux community is the problem that needs to be solved.

"It remains fascinating to me that when this happens the Linux community seems to jump to the conclusion that the reporter, or analyst, was bribed. They can't seem to understand that it is the behavior of their members that makes us conclude they must be wrong and has us view them as criminals."

SCO spent the other half of Forum talking about technology. Not only won't the company quietly lay down and die, it claims to believe that it can actually resuscitate its operating systems business.

At Forum it delivered a developer preview of Legend, the next major release of OpenServer, the hereditary SCO platform that dates to the company's beginnings.

When SCO was the Santa Cruz Operation and lived in California, not Utah, it bought Unix from Novell and tried to shove the AT&T-developed UnixWare operating system down the throats of its resellers in the place of OpenServer, a stupid move the clumsy way it was executed.

Oh yeah, UnixWare was hip and built on System V and OpenServer was old-fashioned and build out of homely old System 3 code, but OpenServer had all the SCO apps and brought in all the SCO business.

Needless to say the resellers spit UnixWare out and the company hasn't been the same since.

Well, Legend is where the reborn Caldera SCO tries to make up for the sins of the old SCO and bring OpenServer and UnixWare into non-violent harmony.

Legend is a milestone on the march to integrating the two incompatible operating systems.

It's like a two-faced Janus figure with OpenServer and UnixWare sharing the same System V kernel, but there are still two development systems, installs and desktops.

Integration above the kernel awaits Diamond, which is due in the first half of '06, roughly a year after Legend goes gold. Diamond also adds support for the next 64-bit Intel and Opteron x86 platforms and SCO says it can demo it now.

Between Legend and Diamond, OpenServer is supposed to get all the newer Unix and Java programs along with increased performance, scalability, reliability and security.

Legend, for instance, includes the open source PostgreSQL and MySQL databases and the Apache app server, a move that will irritate the company's critics. The speed of the file system is supposed to be 100% better than it used to be and there's supposed to be better SMP performance and better load balancing.

Legend's also got VPN and the SCOx Web Services Substrate that rolls legacy apps in a web services wrapper.

SCO this week also borrowed from the open source movement and created a thing called - for the moment - the SCO Marketplace Initiative, where it will pay - ah, there's the rub - pay outside developers to write and maintain largely non-core code like drivers, say.

The work will be put out to bid, enlarging SCO's base of experts. The company is shooting to get its version of a "community" off the ground by the end of the year. Projects will be posted on a special web site.

SCO currently employs about 300 people. It closed its quarter at the end of July and its product unit was reportedly profitable.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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