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SCO releases new products to market confusion

Another new range a year after the last one has left IT managers scratching their heads.

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The SCO Group has produced a new product road map and an aggressive marketing plan to try and recharge its flagging core Unix business.

It comes less than a week after the company announced disappointing financial results that saw quarterly revenue drop to $10.1 million from $21.4 million, and less than a year after it revamped its product lineup to increase sales.

Among the new products are the company's first embedded version of SCO Unix, called Smallfoot, aimed at the market for point-of-sale devices. It also announced UnixWare 7.1.4, updated its SCOoffice Server 4.1 collaboration and e-mail application, and touted an upcoming release of OpenServer, new SCOx Web Services Substrate tools and new marketing, channel and support plans. OpenServer, codenamed Legend, is slated for the first quarter of 2005.

"We're looking at this long term, and we see value that we can provide to our customers now and in the future," said Marc Modersitzki, a SCO spokesman. "Not only do we have a road map, but we're delivering on the road map."

SCO, which has been embroiled in lawsuits with IBM and Novell over the rights to the Unix operating system and related issues, has tried hard in the past few years to remake its image as a vibrant, leading Unix vendor to regain market share lost over the years to Windows and more recently to upstart Linux.

UnixWare 7.1.4 includes new features such as expanded support for Intel's Xeon Hyper-Threading architecture, as well as enhanced USB and USB 2.0 printer support. Also featured is better PCI Serial and IDE driver support for ATA devices with more than 128GB of storage, as well as VPN support based on IPsec and updated SSL and SSH components.

The software also includes support for Java 2 SE, MySQL and PostgreSQL, SOAP and XML toolkits and Unix versions of the Mozilla, Apache and Tomcat.

SCO is also launching its first Small Business Edition of UnixWare for $599 for one processor, although it is offering a promotional five-user licence running on a single processor and 1GB of memory for the same price.

"SCO UnixWare has long been known for its rock-solid reliability, flexibility and scalability," said Jeff Hunsaker, senior vice president and general manager, SCO's Unix Division. "Additionally, the Small Business Edition product will introduce dependable UNIX solutions to a whole new category of workplaces." UnixWare 7.1.4 and the new Smallfoot embedded Unix products are shipping now, while SCOoffice Server 4.1 will ship next month and Vintela Authentication From SCO Release 2.6 will be available in August.

A sampling of industry analysts, however, see SCO's latest moves as somewhat puzzling.

The continuing efforts to produce a new-product road map less than a year after the last one is an indication that the marketplace is confused by the company and its strategy, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC. "They're seeing that people don't know who they are and if they don't know who they are, they're not buying from them," he said. The company continues to do a lacklustre job in creating brand awareness, and it hasn't been able to create a pull to its products for potential customers, he said. "This is the same conversation that has recurred since the former Santa Cruz Operation [the company's original name] and Caldera [after the merger in 2000] and now SCO."

The other issue, Kusnetzky said, is that SCO's continuing Unix intellectual property lawsuits against IBM, Novell and others is apparently putting customers off. Earlier this year, SCO sent thousands of letters to companies that use Linux, warning them of potential lawsuits if they didn't license Unix intellectual property from SCO. "That isn't a way to endear yourself to the business decision-maker," he said. "This is not a way to become friends."

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, said SCO's product moves have been confusing to customers because the company hasn't seemed committed to remaining a software business and has been instead refocusing as more of a Unix intellectual property business. "There's still some money to be eked out of its installed base, but SCO has made it very clear that they don't want to be a products company," Haff said. "It shouldn't surprise them that their customers are jumping ship."

"If I were a SCO customer, it's not saying that I would necessarily jump ship immediately, but I certainly would be operating under the assumption that I'll have to be moving to another platform sooner or later," Haff said.



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