SCO director defends fight-back stance

Tired of being portrayed as the bad guys of IT, Kieran O'Shaughnessy, director of SCO Australia and NZ, last week declared "we are not the anti-Christ of cyberspace" but a defender of Unix fighting the monolithic power of IBM.

Claiming SCO's business was stolen by "foul means", O'Shaughnessy said the company didn't just go out and pick a fight with IBM, but was backed against a wall and had to fight back.

"The only reason we are [pursuing a lawsuit against IBM] is to defend our Unix business; we are not a litigation company, we are about Unix on Intel," he said.

"IBM has transformed Linux from a bicycle to a Rolls-Royce, making it almost an enterprise-class operating system.

"It took us 25 years to build our business and it took [IBM] four years simply by stealing code and then giving it away free."

In an exclusive interview with Computerworld, O'Shaughnessy admitted the past 12 months have been tough coping with an avalanche of harsh public criticism while trying to maintain sales, protect its customer base and release new products.

"But there is support from the people who really matter, our customers and partners. Sure, there is concern about sales but if you go back to 1999 our revenues were in excess of $US250 million and today they are up by $40 million," O'Shaughnessy said.

Despite claims that the legal fight is the last gasp of a dying company, he said the company's cash balance is strong with $US45 million in the bank.

"The legal battle is certainly a cash drain, but we see it as an investment in our future because there will be a big return at the end. We wouldn't have started this if we didn't think we could win," he said adding that the legal costs are burning about $4 million a quarter.

O'Shaughnessy foreshadowed a significant shift in SCO's focus over the next 12 months pointing out that selling intellectual property (IP) licences is no longer a priority.

With two millions servers installed globally, he said the company has recently been more product focused, releasing more products in the past year than in the entire history of the company.

Early this year, O'Shaughnessy warned that SCO had prepared a hit list and would approach Australian Linux users to ensure they had an IP licence.

But this urgency has dissipated with O'Shaughnessy pointing out that he had enough on his plate and would simply sell licences as the opportunity arose.

IP licences, he said, have been sold but wouldn't "go down the path of numbers" except to say "we have broken our duck".

Claiming it is impossible to win a PR war against the likes of IBM, O'Shaughnessy said he's confident the public hysteria will subside over the next six months as "the truth unfolds" and SCO's adds "meat to the bare bones of the case" allowing commentators to get a different view of the facts.

"The true story will unfold as court filings continue and everyone gets to see our side of the story; the IT industry as a whole will take a different view and see we have been dumped on from a great height," he said.

"There will be less of the IBM spin version of events and the courts are the right place for it to come out."

SCO, he said, doesn't just expect financial compensation but removal of the stolen code.

"Linux doesn't exist. Everyone knows Linux is an unlicensed version of Unix," he added.

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