It seems that 2003 may prove to be a watershed for Linux as it battles to become the premier enterprise operating system. But a major factor will be the fall-out from the massive lawsuit between SCO Group and IBM.
Only nine months ago the software world was rocked by Unix provider SCO suing IBM for $1bn, which it shortly after raised to $3bn.
The claim for damages against IBM was primarily for breach of contract. SCO claimed that Big Blue had placed SCO-owned Unix code into the open source Linux operating system.
Some analysts suggested that this was a ploy to get IBM to buy SCO. But neither IBM nor any other large Unix vendor has even hinted at doing this.
Instead, by year-end, the case had become infinitely more complex following claims and counter-claims, until it became a matter of SCO versus the open source movement.
As we enter 2004 the outlook remains decidedly foggy. So it is worth recapping on some of the twists and turns since SCO's first claim.
By May, SCO had cancelled all marketing activities within the UnitedLinux consortium, of which it remains one of four members. In June it 'revoked' IBM's Unix licence, despite IBM maintaining that it was irrevocable.
A war of words with fellow consortium member SuSE had SCO Source general manager Chris Sontag telling vnunet.com that he denied SuSE's assertion that it was protected from action as a UnitedLinux software joint developer.
Even embedded Linux users were included in the licensing programme, albeit at a lower price. Some were concerned but, so far, nothing more has emerged on this.
In August IBM, which resolutely kept a low profile in 2003, launched a countersuit claiming that SCO had violated the GNU General Public Licence as well as four IBM patents.
In fact, one-time Unix licence-owner Novell, which by year-end had bought open source software provider Ximian and was buying SuSE, was repeatedly in confrontations with SCO.
As the year closes, SCO has had to agreed to a judge's demand that it disclose the basis of its evidence against IBM, as both firms try to extract information on the other's case.
But there is also little evidence that the Linux bandwagon has slowed. The publicity may even have focused attention on the benefits of open source.
With SCO's case against IBM not due to come to court until spring 2005, there is plenty of time for the saga to take further twists.
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