The SCO Group could not have started a more lopsided fight than its row with IBM. However, there are more urgent doings in White Plains, such as turning good ideas into barrels of cash, something SCO hasn't managed for the past 20 years.
Observers -- apart from Microsoft and Sun, who'd love to see SCO bleed über-competitor IBM -- are begging IBM to send SCO home in a wheelbarrow. That fate is inevitable even if IBM decides against teaching this pipsqueak some manners.
SCO may indeed have a story to tell, but its chosen means of telling it is egregiously bad form. If IBM actually allowed System V code to leak into other operating systems, SCO would only need to identify the leaks. They would be removed overnight, and their removal would be accompanied by apologies and a check covering realistic damages. That appears to be what happened when UnixSystem Labs teamed with Novell to take the University of California, Berkeley to court, claiming that System V leaked into BSD Unix. USL/Novell proved three instances of leakage, which were promptly plugged. When it was Berkeley's turn at the podium, it identified mountains of reverse leakage -- BSD code that was stripped of BSD's copyright text and pasted into System V. Oops. The plaintiffs quickly settled and had the settlement terms sealed.
The June 18 issue of Forbes refers to open source groups as impotent "crunchies" (wouldn't SCO's CEO, Darl McBride, be crunchy, too?) that will have no impact on this case. But open source has Eric Raymond, author of The Cathedral and The Bazaar and all-around brilliant guy, who posted a detailed, thoroughly researched amicus brief on the SCO/IBM case. His brief(on display at infoworld.com/88) shows that SCO's filing is not fit for The People's Court, much less federal court.
Open source has commercial and academic backing, freedom-obsessed lawyers, and the one key resource SCO lacks: a contingent of graybeards who are tack-sharp scholars of Unix history. They recall how GNU, the Open Software Foundation, and the public release of BSD combined to cut AT&T and its System V successors off at the knees. That they did nicely, and what they failed to bury was mopped up by Microsoft and, eventually, Linux. The crunchies kicked Big Bell out of the software business for good. That same gang of amateurs, much larger in numbers now and infinitely better-equipped, ought to have no trouble dealing with SCO.
Maybe Forbes is betting on SCO on the basis of its stock's performance. SCO shares spiked from 60 cents to a peak of $11.95 per share after it filed against IBM. That looks like a Wall Street endorsement, but my untrained eye doesn't see a stampede. When I checked in mid-June, SCO's total capitalization was only $132 million. It had $5 million in cash. Red Hat's shares were up, too, from a low of $3.46 to a peak of $9.25. Its capitalization stood at $1.3 billion, and it had $300 million in cash. These are just numbers, not advice, and I neither own nor trade stock. But my lay read on this is that just one player in commercial Linux is better equipped to fight than SCO. Put all the corporate friends of open source together, add thousands of angry and obsessive Internet sleuths going over SCO with electron microscopes, and you conclude that SCO's future looks rather bleak.
I'm reminded of a scene from the film Elizabeth (the new one). A doomed man looks at his fresh death warrant and declares triumphantly, "The people will remember me." His executioner's chilling reply: "No. They will forget." There is no fate worse than being written out of history.
So long, SCO.