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Bottled Water, Noorda, and a Commitment to MS
Tuesday, February 03 2004 @ 09:40 AM EST

A reader sent me an article from August 2002, an interview with Darl McBride, one that I had read before but until today I didn't fully realize its significance. Now I do, so it seems important to make it part of the Groklaw record. I note that in the interview, McBride mentions that back then they had "a commitment to bring Microsoft into the picture", he was close to Noorda when they did the purchase from USL in '93, and his problem with Linux is that he wants it to be a paid item, like bottled water, that you "buy now, buy often".

He wants Linux to cost money, and all the indemnification stuff is all about that, I'm thinking. The lawsuits, the works. He is an elephant in a china store, breaking things right and left, just because he is what he is. An elephant. (I refuse to calll him a bull in a china store, because it sounds powerful.) And he no more has the ability to understand an information age than an elephant. He is what he is. OldThink. Old ways struggling to cope with a new world he doesn't understand.

He talks about intellectual property, and he thinks property means like a toaster. Property. He doesn't at all get the "intellectual" part. To him, you must put a product in a box, artificially inflate the price with marketing, and sell, sell, sell. That's all he knows. His tragedy is that the world has changed, old business models must change to fit the new circumstances, and Linux can't be put in a box like detergent, because it is a process, not a product, and it will never work. Even if he could win all the lawsuits and implement his dream to the max, he will then only have killed the golden goose. It's like watching a Greek tragedy play out before our eyes. It's doubly tragic that he chose Linux to involve in his death spiral. The death of the Industrial Age personified, desperately trying to graft old ideas on to the Information Age, which is whizzing right by him.

An interesting footnote from the interview is his view of Novell. The cherry on top is this description of Unix from a story about MyDoom:

SCO sells Unix, an older version of Linux.

Here are some excerpts from the lengthy interview:
Dressed in a leather jacket, black pants, and wraparound sunglasses, McBride showed how Harley came back from the edge of eternity by investing in its heritage. SCO, he promised, will do the same for its re-sellers and consultants, reviving one of the oldest and most successful UNIX brands. Never mind that the outside world has never heard of the millions of servers running SCO. Their time will come.

Taking on the 'Linux is free' myth, McBride offered to sell the audience a plastic cup of water. Then he held up a nicely labeled bottle of pure water, which easily sells for $12/gallon or more. This is how you'll make money, he said. You'll have the SCO brand once again, and our Linux will be powered by UnitedLinux, certified enterprise-ready by IBM and H-P. managed to interview McBride as the Forum was winding down . . .

DL: Do you remember how you first heard of Linux?

McBride: When I was at Novell, Ransom Love had a team working on it. So I eventually hooked them up with Ray Noorda (founder and former CEO of Novell, now Canopy Group). I was running our NetWare Embedded Technology Group. I heard about Linux and Mosaic at the same time. The thing that captured me more at the time was the browser, to be honest, because I'd never seen one before. What impressed me about Linux was Open Source.

DL: Did you understand Open Source at that time, or did the concept come later?

McBride: I did understand it because I was pretty close to Ray when we did the acquisition of USL (Unix Systems Lab) in 1993. It wasn't a new notion, but they way they were approaching it was unique. . . .

DL: So tomorrow you're going to have workshops on what's called defenestration, getting rid of Windows. So will we see Caldera tours in the future?

McBride: We've talked about a Caldera tour, and part of it relates to these products you're talking about, and part of our SCObiz line, which we rolled out yesterday. We think we have a really interesting way to get the SMB customer more connected, but still wrapped around a SCO OpenServer environment and applications. It doesn't matter if its OpenServer, UnixWare, Linux, even if it's Windows at the end of the day, these products will wrap around any OS.

DL: Sounds like you have cross-platform emphasis like Novell claims to have.

McBride: With our solutions business we expect to ride on top of a number of platforms. Volution Manager takes all the distributions of Linux and our UNIXes and provides full management of those environments. We have a commitment to bring Windows into the picture, as well. . . .

DL: You must have an excited team in Germany.

McBride: Our UnitedLinux development team? They're really fired up. Our member partners, even our SCO re-sellers are becoming enthusiastic. They're saying, "When you're ready, let me know. We can make some money with that." I have a hard time selling something without a price tag. It's back to the bottled water analogy. It's not free water. It's bottled water. $14 a gallon. Buy now. Buy often.

DL: You're exhausted. You've been on your feet for a couple of days, talking to people, but underneath it all, are you excited?

McBride: Sure. I've done a number of initiatives. I've worked in Novell. I've created some very nice companies. The upside to this company has been that it's more exciting than anything I've done up to this point. SCO has the potential to be a significant player in the entire tech industry landscape. It's not just about nursing the SCO crowd for a few more years. It's not just about our Linux play. It's taking the brand of SCO, bringing in new acquisitions, pumping in new energy, renewing our core business, and then getting the whole team fired up around this commitment. And with the energy we felt around this conference, I can't tell you how many re-sellers are happy. In the last year, we've gone to the playing field with only about 20 people in the bleachers.

I think we have a fighting chance not to just turn around, but to go to the next echelon, the top tier of branded companies.

DL: You're in a unique position, because most of the Linux community doesn't understand Novell and their products. You worked there, and now you lead a Linux company that incorporates Novell's products. Given what you know, do you see a future for NetWare?

McBride: That's an interesting question. I've thought a lot about this whole idea of Directory Services tied into Linux, for example. They're just across town from us, so at some point, once we get the basics taken care of, I think I'll take a drive and sit down with Chris Stone, and talk turkey. There are clearly some opportunities.

DL: I think Novell and Linux are the great unrecognized marriage in today's OS space.

McBride: Right. I think you're on to something.

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