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Why the best news for Linux is still to come

Connecting the dots on SCO, IBM, Microsoft, servers and a crumbling desktop monopoly

(LinuxWorld) — Hidden away in a seemingly routine industry news story by John Spooner at CNet last week was the most important PC desktop news of the year. Maybe of the past ten years. Unfortunately, the story was wrong. Michael Kanellos, Editor of Enterprise Computing and Personal Technology at CNet, told me that IBM did not get its story right the first time. IBM won't preload Linux after all.

The announcement — had it been true — would have been a much more important one than Microsoft signing an SCO Unix license. It would have represented a frontal assault on the most sacred ground of the Microsoft monopoly: preloads for desktop computers. It's been a long time since a major OEM has had the courage to preload something other than Windows, even in dual-boot configurations. Don't write to me about Dell. Dell was never in the game to play. If you did manage to special-order from Dell a Linux laptop or desktop you still paid for Windows even though Dell didn't load it.

SCO's pathetic attempt to grab a golden IP parachute on the way down is newsworthy, and I'm not saying otherwise. However, an IBM announcement to preload Linux on the desktop would have signaled the official beginning of DW II — Desktop Wars continued. The real struggle is not between SCO and IBM. Neither is it just between IBM, SCO, Novell, and Microsoft. The real struggle is between Microsoft and Linux. The monopoly is desperately trying to fend off the inevitable and prevent free/open source software from ending its monopoly.

Mad SCO Disease

At face value, the SCO legal antics (I like to refer to them collectively as "Mad SCO Disease") simply don't add up. For a firm like SCO, a relatively small-time, unimportant and suddenly irrelevant Unix/Linux player to launch a billion dollar attack on the strongest and most bulletproof firm in the IT world is insane. It's a fiscal mismatch. For great justice in the United States, you need money. SCO vs. IBM is so one-sided it's like a chess match between Deep Blue and someone who thinks a passed pawn is a Yugo in the slow lane.

Give SCO credit. Its every action seems calculated to attract maximum press play both inside and outside the Linux community. None of the actions reveal anything of substance about SCO's claims. There may be a good reason for that. Perhaps there is nothing of substance to reveal. All we know so far is that SCO seems to be just as confused as everyone else when it comes to figuring out what it is doing.

Reading comments by SCO executives is akin to watching a soap opera with a script written by a dozen non-collaborating writers. One day only IBM is in the gunsights, and Linux users and distro makers are in the clear. The next day Linux and SuSE had better watch out. The latest is that all Linux users save those using SCO's own brand of Linux are at risk. Each change in course, each non-revelation, brings a new round of headlines.

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

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