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Reaction to SCO's Open Letter, "Long Live Unix"
Friday, August 12 2005 @ 03:08 PM EDT

A couple of journalists noticed the timing of SCO's Open Letter, that it was released at the same time as LinuxWorld. IT Jungle's Timothy Prickett Morgan wasn't sure what to make of it:
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah and planning (or a lack thereof) for the SCO Group to have scheduled the SCO Forum event for users of its OpenServer and UnixWare Unixes during the same week that the LinuxWorld trade show was garnering most of the headlines in the IT industry. . . .

Considering all of the animosity that SCO has generated by attacking the Linux community--as embodied in its lawsuits with IBM, Novell, and Red Hat as well as Linux user and former SCO Unix customer AutoZone--McBride has a tough job trying to get some good press, and trying to do it during LinuxWorld is just one more indication of the cheek that the management of SCO has had since the lawsuits started. . . .

He also claimed that the Unix System V Release 5 kernel at the heart of OpenServer 6 has better security than Linux, and that SCO has a customer-driven roadmap being coded to by professional developers. The implication is that Linux is created by a group of random bozos who can do whatever they want to do, but anyone who has worked in a merit-based technocracy (or a technology-based meritocracy, if that is how you want to think about it) knows this is not true.

eWeek's headline on their story showed that they got the purpose behind the timing, "SCO Tries to Stave Off Linux." SD Times' Alan Zeichick has an article in their newsletter that I wanted to highlight, because he reveals something new.

SCO's "Long Live Unix" Open Letter wasn't the only effort to distract reporters from LinuxWorld:

The LinuxWorld conference must be a pretty important event if Linux's two biggest enemies are trying to distract the reporters covering the show.

Microsoft was attempting to woo reporters and editors out of San Francisco's Moscone Center and over to a nearby restaurant with the offer of a three-hour lunch and presentation. There was no solid agenda that I could see, but it seems the plan included demos and one-on-one meetings with Microsoft product managers. You can guess for yourself what the purpose was. "Quite a coincidence that you're doing this during LinuxWorld," I said to the nice public-relations person who tried to get me to attend. "It sure is," she laughed. I declined.

The other distraction came via e-mail: The SCO Group's response to LinuxWorld was a press release titled "Long Live Unix: An Open Letter from Darl McBride."

So, Microsoft and SCO, in common cause, once again. Microsoft has too much money if they can spend it like that, I think. Their PR person thought it was funny, but it's not. It's also not funny to contemplate what other dirty tricks they can afford and may be pulling or will pull when they get enough patents in their portfolio. It didn't work with Zeichick, but it may have with others, I suppose. SCO's letter didn't work on him either. He concludes by saying that while he has never used OpenServer 6 and has no comment on its technical merits, he would not currently buy it:
However, until McBride settles his lawsuits and shuts down his FUD factory -ó or produces his evidence and proves his case in court ó- I have no desire to support his company (and tacitly endorse his tactics) by buying his software, knowing that my check would fund his anti-Linux legal war chest.

I think there are probably many who feel the same way. If Microsoft keeps it up, attacking Linux in petty, underhanded ways, folks are likely to apply the same reasoning to Microsoft and conclude that they don't deserve their money and support. Thanks to GNU/Linux, there is now a choice, a meaningful one. If enough people did that, Microsoft would clean up their act in a hurry, not because of being struck by lightning on the road to Damascus -- let's not hope for character miracles with Microsoft -- but because they'd have to, to stay in business at all.

The cynical side of your brain responds: People don't care. Look at all the dirty tricks Microsoft pulled in the past and got away with. Yes, my friends, but there are two differences now. One is that they never before attacked noncommercial players. Linux was developed by volunteers. Folks love them for what they did. It just isn't the same as going after a commercial competitor.

Second, they played their games without most people noticing, at least not until the first antitrust trial. The Internet changes everything, you know, just like they told us. It really does. And one of the things it changes the most is publicity, how much people will notice, and what they can do about it. For example, when a PR person ends up in a story, it is a PR failure.

It's too late for SCO to figure it out, I think. But Microsoft can still save itself, if it is smart. There is no spinning the Internet. Their PR people can't control it, though I'm sure they try. No one can. Common, ordinary people can write whatever they truly believe, reveal whatever they discover, and tell the simple truth, and they do. SCO found that out the hard way. The jury is out on Microsoft. They still have time to choose a higher road. Red Hat's Mark Webbink called on Microsoft to do just that in his speech at LinuxWorld:

Red Hat has called on Microsoft to resist threatening developers and customers with prosecution over possible infringements of patented technologies in Linux.

Mark Webbink, Red Hatís deputy general counsel, on Wednesday called on Microsoft to make a written pledge not to threaten developers with infringement claims.

In the event of disputes, Microsoft should approach Linux distributors with complaints and avoid SCO Groupís tactic of prosecuting customers, he says.

That indicates to me that Red Hat must be expecting Microsoft to go after developers and end users. But it's out in the open now. If they do that, we will know it's the low road they have chosen, and they'll get the same reaction SCO has gotten. No one respects a bully.

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