HP has put out a press release that seems to answer the Why Did They Indemnify question. It appears they had ka-ching in mind, not saving Linux from SCO:
"HP Extends Linux Lifeline to Sun Customers; Offers Free Services to Help Customers Migrate to HP's Market-Leading Industry-Standard Platforms
"PALO ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 3, 2003--HP (NYSE:HPQ) today announced a comprehensive migration program to help move customers from Sun Solaris to HP's market-leading industry-standard platforms running Linux. The new sales and service program offers customers at no cost a combination of assessment, porting and migration services, valued at approximately $25,000, for moving applications from Sun Solaris to Linux. The program enables qualified customers to take advantage of the cost savings of open source Linux and the power and choice of industry-standard computing.
"HP's Sun migration program provides qualifying customers in the Americas with a free assessment of porting and migration needs for up to three applications; porting of one application at no charge; use of an industry-standard HP ProLiant server for up to 30 days for proof of concept testing; and an HP StorageWorks storage area network assessment at no charge to improve storage utilization. . . .
"'Customers are telling us it's time to take advantage of the economics of Linux while cutting their risk and architecting for the future,' said Marc Jourlait, vice president of enterprise marketing programs, HP Enterprise Systems Group. 'HP already offers the market's leading Linux platforms with our industry-standard servers, and we're taking accountability by now helping customers migrate to the future faster than ever.'
"HP last week became the first major Linux vendor to offer an indemnity program(1) to qualified customers for SCO intellectual property infringement claims. HP offers the industry's broadest range of Linux-based servers -- from single-processor HP ProLiant servers to 64-processor HP Integrity servers."
So it appears Linus had it right when he implied it might be a cynical marketing ploy. Sun had indemnified its Solaris customers and HP may have felt it needed to do the same in order to go after Sun's customers. The "architecht for the future" phrase probably refers to Sun's money troubles, meaning HP will still be standing if Sun goes out of business, and the "cutting their risk" crack is a big hint that they aren't worrying about trying for any antiFUD to help Linux. Instead they are adding to the FUD by implying there is a risk.
And to assess the "risk" realistically, take a look at the real world and how Safeway views the "risk", in an article in which Silicon.com lists their "Agenda Setters 2003":
"Someone who could well have fallen into this category this year but didn't make the list at all is SCO CEO Darl McBride. He has led his company's charge to get credit for what it claims is some of its code turning up in Linux. So far the row has taken the form of a lawsuit brought against IBM, headlines in the media and SCO invoicing some users for Linux roll outs.
"However, when asked what happened when his company was served with a request to pay a SCO licence for Linux, panellist Ric Francis, Safeway's CIO, said: 'I told them to stick it. At the end of the day it is never going to fly. It's the last dying breath of a company that is never going to make money.'
"McBride - in the headlines yes, agenda setting no. There is a difference.