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SCO's Letter to the Linux International Board of Directors

May 10, 1999, 13:03 (44 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Doug Michels)


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"Open Source and Linux advocates have been bothered over comments attributed to Doug Michels in recent press articles regarding Open Source and Linux. As an Open Source supporter and sponsor of Linux International, Mr. Michels was surprised at the antagonistic tone and anti-Linux attitude implied by these articles. In order to clarify his and SCO's position on these issues he wrote the following letter to the board of Linux International and other interested parties."

[ This is in response to http://linuxtoday.com/stories/5395.html and http://linuxtoday.com/stories/5244.html. -lt ed ]

April 30, 1999

To: Linux International board and other interested parties,

I would like to clarify my position regarding Linux and address the comments attributed to me in several recent press articles.

I was quite surprised to read some of the things which I was reported to have said. While many of the words and phrases sound familiar to me, they appear to have been heavily edited and rearranged to convey a very antagonistic context and do not accurately reflect my beliefs. I guess I underestimated how badly the press wants to write about a conflict. I haven't seen this sort of reporting since the bad-old-days of the Unix wars.

Ray Noorda made a profound, and for its time, revolutionary observation which he called coopetition. This was the notion that companies could indeed compete and cooperate at the same time. In LI (Linux International) we have many competitors that are cooperating towards a common goal, each for their own reasons. SCO believes that Linux is a good thing and wishes to promote its ongoing success. We believe that the success of Linux is healthy for the overall competitive landscape. We also feel that open source developments have accelerated the growth of the Internet and the general rate of innovation in the industry, and that they are often the precursor to important new commercial opportunities. We plan to continue making key open source technologies available to our customers as well as to continue contributing technology and resources to the open source community.

SCO clearly competes with some of the other corporate members of LI, both those that sell a version of Linux and those that sell other versions of UNIX into the same markets that we target. SCO has well defined target markets and we work hard to create products, services and business models that have great value to these customers. Our recently increasing volumes and revenues provide some evidence that our customers continue to appreciate this value. We will continue to promote our products, services and business models as having better value for our customers and potential customers than the products, services and business models of our competitors. As always, we will do our best to keep this competition even-handed and objective.

The recent articles, quoting me, were based on very small fragments of much longer and broader interviews. I don't have any recordings, transcripts or even an accurate recollection of what was actually said verbatim during these interviews. But, I do know what I usually say and also what my belief's are.

To clarify a few points:

a) I do not believe Linux was created by "punk kids." During interviews, when I am asked about Linux, I always clearly state my respect and admiration for Linus and the community of developers who participate in the open source movement. I believe that the open source community is often perceived as an unruly bunch of young hackers, especially by the IT establishment, and that this will be a factor in the adoption of Linux.

b) Of course, I don't believe that Red Hat is in any way fraudulent. But, I do believe that there is a fundamental difference in the value proposition to customers between that of Open Source Aggregators, such as Red Hat, and that of traditional commercial software companies such as SCO. We will continue to educate customers so that they understand our view on this difference. And I will continue to try and find the right way to communicate this in measured and objective terms but none the less forcefully.

c) I also believe in the principle that great programmers should "steal" great code whenever possible, so long as they do not violate any laws or license agreements. In hindsight, it's clear that "steal" was a poor and confusing choice of words on my part. I was perhaps being too flippant by trying to point out that one can't really steal that which is freely offered.

All in all, I sincerely apologize if anything that I said, or am reputed to have said, has offended anyone. I promise to do my best to avoid saying anything which could be twisted or misconstrued into sounding this stupid....ever again!

Doug Michels

President and CEO, SCO