Who Shot Darl McBride?

Who Shot Darl McBride?

Summary: The SCO saga has all the elements of soap opera but like the best drama, it's teaching us some unexpected lessons about the future

TOPICS: Tech Industry

There's been nothing like it since Dallas hit our screens quarter of a century ago. Colourful characters, plot twists and suspense? Check. Good versus evil, powerful men versus noble innocents, billions of dollars in the balance? Yep. We even have judges, guns and mysterious briefcases: as pure drama, l'affaire SCO cannot be faulted. Yet there may be a bigger surprise at the end than anyone guessed.

Whoever's writing the script threw in a doozie last week: Daddy wants his money back -- or does he? Baystar, the group of capitalists that on Microsoft's tip-off gave SCO $20m to establish control over Linux, publicly said that it wanted out. And then it shut up.

That statement alone was a crippling blow to SCO, whose share price promptly shed nearly half its value. If one of the two major backers for the expedition thinks the game is up, why would judges, juries, investors and customers think any different? SCO's reaction was typically loud, self-pitying and blisteringly ironic -- Baystar hasn't told us what the problem is exactly, it said. And if we don't know the details, how can we respond? For a company that has consistently fought to avoid revealing any substantive details of its own legal claims, this is rich stuff indeed.

After a week of letting the company swing in the breeze, Baystar today amplified its position via an interview in the New York Times. It still has faith in the basic intellectual property claims of SCO, it says, but not in SCO's management. More precisely, it wants SCO to concentrate on the case and stop mouthing off in public -- and while it's at it, it should ditch its software products.

Expect SCO to comply or die. There are two reasons for this. Whether or not it could afford the financial hit and whether or not it can be forced to return the money -- neither is clear -- it cannot afford to have Baystar as an enemy for any length of time. The best reason, though, is simple: Baystar is dead right on all counts.

Disposing of the software issue first, as SCO should have done last year: nobody will ever want to buy software from the company again. It's not very good, it's miles behind the competition and you run the risk that your supplier will slap a lawsuit on you if you so much as look at a penguin. SCO has no future in developing or selling software, and pretending that it does is a drain on the company's resources, focus and remaining credibility.

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Excellent article! I enjoyed the read even though I already knew all the character scripts.
  • Excellent points, though Groklaw has pretty well shot most of SCO's IP claims down in flames. The likelihood of SCO ever collecting another cent of IP licensing is minute. The best they can hope for at this point is keeping the body alive long enough to unload their stock on the unsuspecting.

    Oh, and a not-so-minor nitpick: Groklaw's Jones is Pamela, not Paula; Paula was one of Clinton's Conquests, remember?
  • SCO can't drop the products side of their business because the strongest of their (very weak) claims for $5 billion from IBM relate to the damage done (and continuing to be done) to their business by IBM's actions. That's why they have to keep the facade up of being a software company and developing real products.
  • Great article!

    BayStar now looking for a scapgoat! They threw money after SCO without doing proper DD. I never would have believed that professionals might fall for such a scam. And now they even refuse to admit it.

    But I understand that those investment whizkids don't have enough time to check places like the Yahoo SCOX board or Groklaw.

    Now they are whipping a dead horse and are looking for another rider. This may help to protect their egos. But it won't reanimate that dead horse and it definely won't go through the finish line.

    BayStar deserves it very well to lose all its money bet on SCO's scam.
  • Excellent.

    I loved the article
  • Very well written! A jewel of a summary for past and present on this case...You have a similar style to PJ and I think she(we all) wellcome any future articles...ciau
  • there is a lot of both ,god and common sense in this article.

    ..and sure the lesson is non only fr SCO and baystar, the lesson is for all that business men working as managers on a public company.
  • Excellent. I loved it.
  • Excellent Article - Microsoft was the puppeteer!!
  • Good article, but there's one more hypothesis you and BayStar should consider. The point of SCO's shtick isn't to win lawsuits, it's to have lawsuits in play. That's why they do everything possible to keep any of them from progressing toward judgment, and file more suits when the first ones start looking tatty. The purpose of the lawsuits is to generate publicity, not to win damages. The reason for the publicity is to perpetrate the illusion that SCO is a real company, with assets that are worth something -- in order that the insiders can unload their stock before the bottom inevitablly drops out. I seriously doubt that BayStar is involved in monkey business of any sort. They look to me like victims of a stock swindle. Microsoft is a side issue -- they just saw an opportunity to sucker somebody else into financing their dirty work.
  • Don't get our hopes up with titles like that! ;^)
  • Once all the dust settles and the smoke is cleared, what will happen to Unix? Will there be an ultimate showdown over who owns what? Will it become released as open source finally? Will IBM, Novell, Sun etcetera start another silly round of lawsuits amongst themselves or abandon their proprietary Unixes in favor of their own sexy new flavour Linux OSes?
  • You're a fluff idiot (lousy journalist). No one was shot. People in Iraq are being shot...not here. I like Linux though.
  • Great insight, colorfully written. Thanks for the 5 minutes of entertainment Rupert.
  • To anonymous who complained that "no one was shot": You may be too young to remember the TV nighttime soap "Dallas", where a cliffhanger ended with "J.R.", one of the real villians of the series, shot by an unknown assailant (at least four people were headed for his office to do the deed or threatening to do it, at least, each for their own reasons, and the real question was, who got there first).

    Since this is the closest thing the industry has to a soap opera (unless you count the AMD/Intel rivalry), the reference seems reasonable to me... Lighten up a bit.