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In 2003, the SCO boogeyman was scary. There were fears that SCO could end the Linux dream much the same way, a generation earlier, AT&T ended the dream for BSD.
The SCO boogeyman has now been exposed to be a straw scarecrow with no real substance.
A judge has ruled that SCO didn't fully control the Unix copyright SCO had thought it had bought from Novell nearly a decade ago. The judge also ruled that Novell could move to stop SCO from pursuing its subsequent action against IBM on alleged intellectual property infringement in Linux.
It doesn't necessarily mean that the SCO boogeyman is actually dead, though, since there are still other legal appeals and an actual trial. But for argument's sake let's assume that this is the endgame for SCO. What happens now?
I see a number of potential scenarios that could play out depending on which way the wind blows the SCO scarecrow.
Option No. 1: McDonald's buys SCO
Whoa, where did that come from? Easy now, McDonald's is one of the largest customers of SCO's Unix products and, as such, has a vested interest in being able to maintain it. Quarter after quarter SCO CEO Darl McBride name drops McDonald's as a customer. Of course it doesn't have to be McDonald's necessarily that buys what's left of SCO; maybe one of SCO's other customers could take the reins.
The bottom line with this option is that there are enterprises that depend on SCO's technology, and they might want to keep the company or its technology alive in some way. Though it would be interesting, this option is highly unlikely.
Option No. 2: Novell buys SCO
If the ruling holds, SCO will owe Novell a fair sum of cash which it likely cannot pay, so this option may not be all that far fetched.
Novell would take control of SCO in lieu of monies owed. From a business point of view Novell's SUSE Linux is all about Unix migrations so they could potentially manage a migration program for SCO's Unix users to SUSE Linux. Alternatively, similar to the way Novell's Open Enterprise Server manages Novell's legacy Netware alongside Linux, some new offer could potentially manage SCO's legacy Unix alongside Linux.
Not as crazy as option No. 1, is it? Considering the deep animosity between SCO and Novell, I suspect that SCO would enact some kind of scorched Earth policy before it ever would let Novell control its technology assets.
Option No. 3: SCO goes open source
I'm just full of whacked ideas, aren't I? Well SCO is an interesting vendor so why not? Though SCO has been fighting Linux, it does in fact use open source software as part of its Unix offerings. Rather than let Novell get its grubby hands on it, SCO in one last final act of defiance could try and redeem itself by donating its code to the open source community and letting users have the choice and option of continuing its maintenance.
Though this would likely be an ideal option for users, it's also a bit unlikely. IBM, that great scion of open source, still has not open sourced its OS/2 operating system. Taking an existing operating system with all of its patents and copyrights and turning it open source is no easy task.
Sure it could be done, and it would serve as a brilliant act of poetic justice, but again, somehow, I think it's unlikely
Option No. 4: There is no life after death
There are those that believe that there is life after death, but that usually means the existence of a soul.
If SCO is a soul-less, life-sucking entity as some might argue, then it has no prospect for life after death. SCO will just cease to exist; its stock will be delisted from the exchange; its offices liquidated; and its software adrift in the limbo that is abandon ware.
SCO would then just become a footnote in the annals of computer history; the answer to some future trivia question.
Of all the options I've presented out, personally I think that the last one is the most likely. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Out of nothing it came and to nothing it will return.
Sean Michael Kerner is senior editor for internetnews.com.