Unix vendor aims to transform into digital services provider
The SCO Group is on the go to become a mobile application services provider--but it won't give up on its Unix business or legal case against IBM, according to SCO CEO Darl McBride.
At the SCO Forum in Las Vegas, McBride said the Lindon, Utah-based company will continue to develop Unix, support its Unix customers and fight for its intellectual property rights. Yet SCO's future growth rests on its new Me Inc. mobile software services and EdgeClick mobile application development platform, he noted. Both offerings were touted heavily at the conference Monday.
The mobile services shift marks a turning point for SCO, whose Unix fortunes have been failing amid the increasing uptake of Linux and an expensive, controversial intellectual property case against IBM.
"Today is the coming out party for Me Inc.," McBride said, adding that SCO continues to innovate despite naysayers who say the company has evolved into merely a holding company for lawsuits. "Over the next few years, we want to be a leading provider of mobile application software to the marketplace. ... This is a seminal moment for us."
In a teleconference Monday, SCO's top executives said the company will try to take a lead in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) front by supporting multiple platforms and becoming a service provider.
To date, SCO has launched three mobile services--Vote, Shout and Team--plus a platform called EdgeClick, which allows developers and solution providers to build mobile services for specific verticals. Vote is a realtime service that allows businesses to poll their customers and partners, and Shout enables the broadcast of instant marketing messages to cell phones. Shout used by the National Basketball Association's Utah Jazz, an SCO customer.
Since unveiling EdgeClick early this year, SCO has been busy building a data center infrastructure to enable developers and partners to sell, provision and bill digital services, company executives said. With that completed, SCO has signed partnerships with Microsoft, Palm and DayTimers to grow its Me Inc. services revenue and promote EdgeClick.
As part of that, SCO is offering support for Visual Studio 2005 and the Palm Treo and plans to add support for all Symbian-based Nokia and Windows Mobile phones over the next six months. For instance, SCO will ship its EdgeClick Mobile Application Development (MAD) Toolkit as a plug-in to Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005. SCO also joined Microsoft's VSIP program, which allows SCO to redistribute Visual Studio 2005 or Visual Studio Premier Partner Edition IDE integrated into its product. With that, partners can use J2ME or Microsoft's .Net Compact Framework to build their own services.
Other planned Me Inc. services include HipCheck, a remote control and monitoring service for Windows and Unix servers; Action, a field-service automation service; and Order, a field order-application service. HipCheck will be available for Windows mobile platforms in the fourth quarter. Action and Order are due out later this year.
SCO also announced a pact to develop, market, sell and support a suite of Day-Timer mobile automation solutions for personal use. The services, code-named DT4, can extend time management, calendaring and task management through integration with Shout, Vote and other services.
SCO aims to tap into its sizable base of Unix VARs and customers as well as Microsoft's vast army of resellers to drive Me Inc. services and the EdgeClick platform, McBride said.
And some solution providers are already making money on it. Stephen Pirolli, principal of ASK Technologies, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based SCO reseller, said he continues to make money selling and servicing the SCO's Unix server but also is generating income by deploying SCO's new mobile services to salesmen in the field with only cell phones.
"We have done work on the mobile platform, Me Inc., for Musco Food [Corp.] for salesmen who walk around with price books but have to call in to find out about what they can get and when," Pirolli said. "And now we found a way to get all that information sitting at corporate [headquarters] and can push it to the field via phone, on Treo phones, so they can take the order immediately."
ASK Technologies also is working with an apparel manufacturer that wants to deploy the Me Inc. services to 65 of its field-sales staff selling fabrics, Pirolli added. "The application resides on the phone, so it doesn't matter if there's no cell coverage," he said.
SCO's revenue has fallen to roughly $7 million per quarter, a third of what it was in 2001. McBride acknowledged that Unix is a declining business for the company, yet it will continue to upgrade its code and support new customers. Later this year, SCO plans to release a minor update of Open Server 6, version 6.01. And although a Utah judge recently threw out a host of claims filed by SCO as part of its complicated IP suit against IBM, the case is far from over, he said.
Nevertheless, SCO is concentrating on its future, McBride noted.
"We're not here [today] to address the lawsuit. The point we've made is we'll have our day in court in six months. We've been fighting this high-profile IP battle for four years now and spent nearly $50 million in that battle, and we're looking forward to having our case heard by a jury of our peers," he said. "The legal case is moving forward, and SCO's [Open Server 6] Unix business is starting to get uptick. But the big news is that we've launched a new mobility product line with surrounding partnership infrastructure."