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Caldera & SCO
Once a prosperous, medium-sized and laid-back Northern California software company that produced successful and reliable vertical market UNIX operating systems for x86-based servers throughout the 1980s through the early 2000's, the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) began its demise shortly after being acquired by Caldera, Inc., a Linux vendor based out of Provo, Utah.
Part of the Ray Noorda-backed family of companies known as the Canopy Group, the company re-named itself "The SCO Group" and soon began to find itself in a bit of an identity crisis.
SCO Group's first incoming CEO and former CEO of Caldera Ransom Love wanted to merge Caldera and SCO's Linux and UNIX product lines, and create a best of breed OS. Indeed, that would have been a marriage worth consummating.
SCO had partnered with Intel, IBM and Sequent briefly during the mid-1990s on "Project Monterrey", an attempt to unify, merge and port the best aspects of the company's UNIXWare OS and IBM's AIX to the new Intel Itanium as well as IBM's POWER processor.
With the rise in popularity of Linux and 64-bit x86 chips, interest in Itanium waned and the effort to market the completed IA-64 variant was scuttled.
SCO's failure to market the IA-64 version of Monterey resulted in Ransom Love being pushed aside and succeeded by Darl Mcbride. With McBride at the helm of SCO, the company became entirely focused on litigation as opposed to product development.
SCO not only sued IBM for alleged contributions of Monterey code to the Open Source Linux kernel, but also large customers, end-users and vendors of various Linux OSes, including Red Hat and Novell.
This turned the company into a pariah not only among the legion of Open Source and Linux developers but SCO's own customers and the entire technology industry. The litigation debacle went on for years, chronicled in gory detail on sites such as Groklaw.
SCO's sales of UNIX products went down the toilet, and was forced to lay off virtually all of its employees to focus entirely on its lawsuits.
In 2007, SCO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In 2009, Darl Mcbride was fired. Early in 2011, UnXis Inc purchased SCO's remaining UNIX software assets.
The sad tale of Palm
Palm has such a storied history with its relationships with companies that it acquired and companies that acquired it that it would be not be unreasonable to deem it as the Zha Zha Gabor of the technology industry.
A few years after its founding, Palm Computing was purchased by US Robotics, a company known mostly for producing data communications products.
Under that marriage, starting in 1996, the legendary PalmPilot PDA was sold and manufactured. But that marriage was short-lived, as networking company 3COM bought US Robotics in 1997. Unhappy with the way the company was going, the company's two founders, Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins, went their own way and formed Handspring, a company that produced PalmPilot clones.
In 2000, Palm was eventually spun off by 3COM into an independent publicly traded company. While this improved the company's finances for a time, by June of 2001 the company had lost over 90 percent of its publicly traded value.
In 2001, Palm also purchased Be Inc., a company that produced high-performance computer workstations that ran on BeOS, which was one of the original contenders to replace Apple's aging Mac OS System 7.
When Apple chose Steve Jobs' NeXT company and their OpenStep OS instead, Be was bought at a fire-sale price of $11 million. While industry followers expected the company to use the OS as the basis for its future products, Palm never did anything with BeOS.
In order to attempt to generate more revenue, In 2003 Palm split itself into two companies, PalmSource (for licensing the Palm OS) and PalmOne for producing the PDA hardware. In 2003, PalmOne also purchased Handspring to bring Dubinsky and Hawkins back into the fold.
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Palmsource, the company that was meant to become the software licensor, ended up being purchased by Japanese company ACCESS in 2005, which had the intention of creating a next-generation Linux OS, ALP (ACCESS Linux Platform) for mobile devices that would have Palm emulation capability. This went effectively nowhere.
What ACCESS did do was sell the trademarks for the name 'Palm' back to PalmOne for $30 million in 2005.
Palm continued to flounder for several years until 2009, when the webOS mobile operating system and the Palm Pre smartphone was introduced. While displaying innovative multitasking features and a unique user interface, the Pre was a market failure.
In 2010, Hewlett-Packard acquired Palm for approximately $1.2 billion. The Palm brand was discontinued in favor of HP's branding, and the company began development of new smartphone as well as tablet products that used webOS.
On July 4th, 2011, HP's TouchPad tablet went on sale to an unreceptive public and to extremely unfavorable reviews, many citing the product's sluggishness and numerous software bugs. After 45 days on the market and abysmal sales. Hewlett-Packard made the decision to discontinue the manufacturing of all webOS-based products.
In December of 2011, under the leadership of HP's new CEO, Meg Whitman, the company accounted that WebOS would be released in the near future under an open source license.
The future of any webOS-based products produced by HP or any potential licensee is currently uncertain.
Oracle & Sun Microsystems
Take one of the most established players in the enterprise software industry and merge it with one of the most established players in enterprise hardware, you get one hell of of combination, right?
Well, maybe not.
Sun Microsystems, once the darling of Silicon Valley, started to experience problems in the mid-2000's when the emergence of commodity Linux x86-based servers, the rise in popularity of Open Source software and pressure from other high-end enterprise systems vendors such as IBM and HP began to erode much of the company's core server business.
To counteract this downward trend, the company began to embrace a more Open Source philosophy with projects such as Opensolaris, OpenOffice and Glassfish, and began to acquire Open Source software firms such as MySQL AB, VirtualBox and sponsor external Open Source projects such as Xen, which became the foundation for their xVM virtualization product line.
Unfortunately, many of these efforts were too late to save the company, and it became obvious in 2009 that the only route for the company's survival was that of being acquired by a much larger competitor.
IBM, Fujitsu and HP were thought to be the prime candidates, but in a last minute and completely unexpected move, Oracle came in with the winning bid for about $7.2 billion including buying off the company's debt.
What followed was to be expected. Thousands of employees lost their jobs, and many of the Open Source efforts that Sun began were quickly extinguished, including OpenSolaris. The OpenOffice project effectively disbanded and regrouped under the Document Foundation as LibreOffice, and the founding MySQL team forked into a number of different projects.
Under Oracle's leadership, Sun's core hardware business has continued to decline dramatically. To recoup the losses, Oracle filed patent lawsuits against Google for allegedly using their Java intellectual property in their Android operating system, which uses virtual machine software called Dalvik that emulates the programming syntax of, but is not compatible with Java.
Oracle asked the courts for billions of dollars in damages in the hopes of turning their Sun lemon into lemonade. If Oracle had succeeded in collecting substantial damages from Google, it would have made its investment in Sun a smart one.
But as we know now, Oracle's damages by Google were deemed to be zero, and the company collected effectively nothing as a result of its ligitation and is currently awaiting appeal.
If that appeal turns out to be fruitless, then the Oracle acquisition of Sun will probably go down in history as one of the biggest strategic blunders by a technology company of all time.
Either way you look at it, between the mass layoffs of talent, extinguishing of Sun's open source corporate culture and its attempt at weaponizing Java against Google, Sun has become anything but an honest woman under Oracle's stewardship.