SCO puts focus on countertop

SCO is developing a tool that will bury into point of sale devices and automatically build and download a version of Linux to take advantage of what it finds

The SCO Group, which recently changed its name from Caldera in a move which many saw as a desertion of the Linux operating system, is continuing development of Linux -- with a new focus on the countertop. With the name change, SCO shifted its focus toward Unix in the form of OpenServer, which is typically deployed on small servers in branch offices, and UnixWare, which is marketed as a highly scaleable Unix operating system. But the company retains an interest in Linux, according to chief executive Darl McBride, who took over shortly before the name change. Aside from a desktop distribution and close links with the UnitedLinux project aimed at creating a Linux server distribution that enterprise applications can be easily certified against, SCO is also working on a version of Linux for point of sale devices. "Most point of sale devices are character based," said McBride in an interview with ZDNet UK. "What we are developing is a configuration tool that an administrator can send out to query a cash register and find out what is inside. It will then configure itself for what it finds there and build a light version of the Linux operating system that can be automatically downloaded and installed." The increased focus on point of sale devices does not mean that SCO is giving up on the desktop. The company still sells what used to be Caldera Linux, in the form of OpenLinux Workstation and, it is continuing to develop its Volution Manager product, which helps system administrators manage desktop versions of Linux, automatically installing patches and so on, and plans to extend its reach to desktop versions of Windows too. Although SCO is not releasing details of the service yet, McBride said it will fit in with the company's focus on its UnixWare and OpenServer operating systems, and in particular with retail customers who run OpenServer in their branch offices. "People typically are not buying Linux to put into McDonald's retail applications," he said. "We thought customers would be jumping off open server and UnixWare, but they didn't." In fact, said McBride, when he arrived at Caldera he found that the SCO brand carried significantly more weight than the Caldera brand among customers. "The first thing I did was to turn over all the stones and look underneath to find out where the value was. One thing that quickly became clear was that our sales force would spend the first half hour of 45 minutes explaining who Caldera was -- we had no brand recognition outside the US. But as soon as SCO was mentioned everybody knew exactly who they meant." Despite the hype over Linux in recent years, it has not displaced UnixWare and OpenServer as fast as some had forecast, according to McBride. The hype over Linux in the late 90s was such that IBM ditched UnixWare from its unified Unix initiative called Project Monterey in favour of the open source upstart. Project Monterey aimed to create a Unix platform that would span the 32-bit and 64-bit space with a common application programming interface. At the time, IBM said that the number of developers for Linux was far surpassing those on UnixWare. It was shortly after IBM's rebuff that the old Santa Cruz Operation sold UnixWare and OpenServer to Caldera. However, the new SCO Group believes that these operating systems still have plenty of life left in them. "64-bit computing has not exactly taken the world by storm," said McBride. "32-bit continues to be the mainstay." Although SCO plans to continue work on its Unix operating systems, it has no plans to take them to 64-bit. For that, it will rely on the UnitedLinux project, where a price structure that will typically involve maintenance will make Linux more attractive to SCO's worldwide community of resellers who, until now, have been averse to trying to sell Linux into customers sites because of the lack of revenue structure.

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