August 19, 2003 1:09 PM PDT

SCO shifts focus from suit to wares

LAS VEGAS--The SCO Group, which lately has garnered more attention for its legal efforts than its products, on Tuesday gave a broad overview of its SCOx Web services framework to attendees of its customer conference here.

During a keynote presentation at SCO Forum, the company finally got down to business discussing its SCOx product offerings in a bit more detail. On Monday, the first day of the conference, the company spent much of the time addressing its legal battles over Linux. It's not surprising that SCO has focused on the dispute, given that its intellectual property enforcement effort is its fastest-growing revenue source.

In March, SCO sued IBM, claiming Big Blue had illegally incorporated some of SCO's Unix code into its version of Linux. The moves irritated many in the Linux community, who claim that SCO has no rights to the Linux code it is claiming as its own.

In an interview with CNET News.com, SCO CEO Darl McBride said the company launched the conference with an influx of information about the lawsuit, including offering a peek at the disputed code, in order to quell fears about the future of the company.

"Everyone is wondering about the lawsuit. They want to know how it impacts them," McBride said. "To the extent people get familiar with our lawsuit, they get comfortable going forward with us."

On Tuesday, the company touted its SCOx Web services initiative as a way for its partners to target small and medium-size businesses in order to make more money from Web-enabled products and services. Web services tools let applications talk to each other regardless of the infrastructure they were built on. Web services are commonly used for processes such as billing, partner integration and inventory management.

SCO's initiative supports basic Web services such as UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). The company said the SCOx framework runs on software developed for other Web services infrastructure, including Microsoft's .Net and Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Enterprise Edition.

At the conference, SCO introduced some application programming interfaces (APIs) that will let partners and customers build on the system as well as the SCOx WebFace Solution Suite, designed to let developers and customers easily make their applications and services Web-enabled. The company also said it would offer training and business leads to conference attendees who embrace SCOx.

"We want to enable the common business worker to develop powerful business solutions," said Scott Lemon, chief architect of SCOx. Lemon showed a demonstration in which an e-commerce company taking orders for spy cameras via the Web uses SCOx software to communicate with a supplier via SMS messaging when it runs out of inventory.

During the keynote presentation, SCO partner Rajiv Gupta, chairman of Confluent Software, said that Web services aren't glamorous, but they're the future of doing business on the Web. "This isn't rocket science," he said. "This isn't going to change the face of the Earth. This is 'I'm going to do my business more efficiently.'"

Company representatives didn't bring up the legal battles Tuesday until the very end of the keynote, when McBride jumped on stage to introduce SCO's newest hire, Gregory Blepp, a former vice president of international business at European Linux software distributor SuSE, who will now sell Unix licenses for SCO.

The rift in the software industry caused by the IBM suit seemed to make itself apparent at the conference. As late as last week, a Hewlett-Packard representative had been on the schedule for a keynote address Tuesday, but when the conference started, that person had been replaced by someone from a much smaller company. What's more, Intel, which had been a sponsor in years past, did not have a major presence at the conference.

McBride said the HP keynote fell through because HP wasn't yet ready to announce an initiative it had planned to unveil. But he acknowledged that companies are feeling heat from Linux enthusiasts for publicly supporting SCO, and he said it doesn't surprise him that major companies involved with Linux and SCO want to lie low for a while.

"There is no doubt that the Linux community is putting huge amounts of pressure on some companies," McBride said. "You won't see companies coming out in droves."

In fact, when SCO announced the first Fortune 500 company to sign onto its new Linux licensing deal, it refused to name the company, at the request of the licensee, which did not want to become a flashpoint for the dispute.

Meanwhile, some members of the Linux community are asking to view the disputed code without signing the required nondisclosure agreement, saying such an agreement could destroy their careers by restricting their ability to program in certain cases. The Linux supporters said the only way to know whether SCO has a case is for credible programmers, not just SCO supporters and people willing to sign such an agreement, to view the code. So far, SCO has refused the request.

 

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