19 May 2003 SCO Group’s recent attack on the Linux operating system may have earned it many enemies among the open source movement, but the company seems to have won over at least one big ally: Microsoft.
SCO Group, which owns the intellectual property of the Unix operating system, has announced that Microsoft has signed a deal to license the rights for Unix.
Commenting on the move, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said that it was in line with the company’s “ongoing commitment to respecting intellectual property” and that Microsoft’s products could now “exchange data with Unix software without violating any patents”.
SCO’s attack on Linux began in March when the company filed suit against IBM alleging that it had misappropriated its intellectual property and used it to enhance Linux.
In early May, SCO further claimed that an investigation of the source code of Linux, carried out as part of an evidence gathering exercise for the IBM lawsuit, revealed that whole lines from its Unix source code had been copied into the heart of Linux, meaning that vendors of Linux products and services could also be liable.
A little over a week later, the company then sent out letters to nearly 2,000 large corporations warning them that they too could be in breach of SCO’s intellectual property if they used Linux.
Microsoft’s decision to enter into a licensing deal, says SCO, confirms the importance and validity of its patents and, moreover, the company says it will announce a similar deal with another large technology vendor shortly.
However, many analysts say that the real reason for Microsoft’s action was to try and further undermine the credibility of Linux. The open source operating system is seen as the primary threat to Microsoft’s Windows operating system monopoly and the company is a vocal Linux critic.
Some in the open source community are taking the conspiracy theory even further, suggesting that Microsoft is bankrolling SCO’s legal challenge to Linux in a bid to stem defections from the Windows environment. That claim has been denied by Microsoft.
The next stage in the drama is likely to come quickly. SCO has threatened to revoke IBM’s licence to ship its AIX Unix operating system on June 13 2003 unless the company meets various demands.