[linux-elitists] "Microsoft to license Unix code"

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Tue May 20 08:52:12 PDT 2003

on Tue, May 20, 2003 at 12:20:01PM +1000, Martin Pool (mbp@samba.org) wrote:
> On 19 May 2003, "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> > on Mon, May 19, 2003 at 06:11:35PM +1000, Jeff Waugh (jdub@perkypants.org) wrote:
> > > So,
> > > 
> > > I don't think this changes much, but it's an interesting data point. Well,
> > > apart from being good media fodder for SCO and MS.
> > > 
> > >   http://www.zdnet.com.au/newstech/os/story/0,2000048630,20274643,00.htm
> This is really interesting.  I can think of a few possibilities:
>  - This is a way for Microsoft to funnel money to SCO and prop them up
>    through a protracted court case, and perhaps to convince IBM that
>    SCO won't be exhausted.  (But why not just buy stock?)

That's Perens's speculation in his CNet editorial.

>  - Microsoft want to increase the credibility of SCO's attempt to get
>    licence fees from companies using Linux.  But why should they have
>    to pay, when all-Microsoft shops presumably do not?
> There are also a few possibilities that are a bit more embarrassing
> for Microsoft and that perhaps ought to be raised in the press or in
> court:
>  - Microsoft have (perhaps unintentionally) also inserted copyright
>    SCO code into their codebase, and were at risk of a lawsuit as
>    well.  If it can be copied by a rogue programmer into Linux then it
>    would be easier to copy it into a proprietary system.
>  - Microsoft are using Linux or Unix.

Known fact on both counts.  MSFT's SFU (not "shut the fsck up", but
"services for Unix") is Interix rebranded, and has been a product for
years.  Microsoft runs (and is expanding) its Linux ops (partly an
intelligence thing, partly a competitive thing) according to news

> The SCO press release also says
>   http://ir.sco.com/ReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=109360
>     "With this announcement, Microsoft is clearly showing the
>     importance of maintaining compatibility with UNIX and Microsoft's
>     software solutions through their software licensing. This
>     important step will better help their customers implement UNIX and
>     Windows solutions."
> Perhaps Microsoft are planning on expanding the fig-leaf POSIX
> subsystem in NT into something actually useful?  

There have also been reports of this.  Realization, essentially, that
the problem isn't 'Nix lacking a GUI (there are many, several
excellent), but MS Windows lacking a decent, consistant, shell.  You can
get further with inconsistent GUIs (inherently event-driven) than
without a universally available shell (scriptability is useful).
Admission a week or so back that there would be more unix-like features
in future Windows products, including headless (GUI-less) Windows

> That would be kind of
> an admission that their plans to move the world to Win32 had failed,
> but it might also help stop migration from proprietary Unix to Linux.
> If it was equally easy to port to NT then some companies might
> consider it.  (I can't see any way in which SCO code would actually be
> technically useful in writing this system, given its reputation for
> being old and crufty.)

Somewhat.  I see it more as convergence.  GUIs are useful for
interactive work.  CLIs are useful for automation.   MSFT's intentional
fracturing and obfuscating the operating environment is useful from a
marketing perspective (it keeps both users and VARs off balance), but
hurts from a functional perspective (both good administration and solid
apps are harder to come by).

> If, as SCO disingenuously claims, SCO owns the heart of all Unix
> operating systems, then surely Microsoft buying them would be an
> enormous antitrust problem.

Interesting point.

> I think it says something about Microsoft's ability to innovate that
> they think licensing 20-year old Unix code is a good deal compared to
> what they can do in house. :-)

...not sure if there's intentional irony over the fact that Xenix (aka
SCO Unix) was originally a Microsoft product.

> Near the bottom of that article, Ard writes
>     In March 2001, Microsoft Senior Vice President Craig Mundie said
>     releasing source code into the public domain is "unhealthy,"
> It's a shame that even in 2003, some journalists can't understand the
> difference between open source and public domain.  I don't think
> Microsoft ever had a problem with public domain code, since they can
> freely take from it.  It was only the reciprocal open source licences
> like the GPL that they didn't want.

Fair point.  Why don't we let Ard know about this (see CC list).

> > Anyone got a dollar figure on that deal?  I seem to recall $200m, but
> > don't see that anywhere.
> It might well be a peppercorn if the only reason is to give SCO more
> credibility.

I'm now seeing reports of $10-20m licensing revenues reported by SCO.
There's a shareholders report scheduled for 28 May.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"
    "You ask a glass of water."
    -- HHGTG

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