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February 1, 1998

COMPAQ-DEC RAISES PROSPECT OF “UNIXFICATION” WITH SCO

By CBR Staff Writer

Compaq Computer Corp’s acquisition of Digital Equipment Corp is lending further impetus to talks between Santa Cruz Operation Inc and DEC aimed at consolidating the functionality of their respective Unix operating systems. Over and above the feelers being sent towards SCO last week, Compaq’s assumption of Digital Unix looks to have also won DEC the kind of credibility that will set the OEM phone lines humming. SCO, whose UnixWare system software is sold on Compaq’s Intel servers responded to the overtures by indicating it’s keen to examine ways of incorporating 64-bit Digital Unix technologies or developing compatibility between the two. Executives we spoke to from Compaq and its DEC and Tandem Computers Inc units last week all expressed a similar desire to see the Unix strains converge or at least the provision of greater application interoperability between the two. Compaq, the PC shop turned $38bn IBM Corp rival, now has three Unixes on its hands: UnixWare on its own servers, Digital Unix and Tandem’s fault-tolerant variant. SCO, still working on a 64-bit version of UnixWare, would likely benefit from DEC’s 64-bit experience with Digital Unix, which is currently being ported from the Alpha RISC on to Intel Corp’s IA- 64 instruction set. SCO claims new market research shows its Unixes – UnixWare and OpenServer – have surpassed OS/2 as the third most popular server platform worldwide in unit terms behind Windows NT and NetWare respectively. DEC would be able to leverage SCO’s applications base as well as relationships with the company’s OEMs. (DEC, by the way, also sells SCO on its Intel servers). Indeed SCO’s gearing up to beat its own drum in the next few weeks by revealing the Big E II companies which are to OEM its forthcoming UnixWare 7 release. SCO, which thinks it will eventually get NCR Corp back from the clutches of Sun Microsystems Inc’s Solaris x86, may also be able to win back favor with Sequent Computer Systems Inc if it can get closer to DEC. Sequent recently chose to OEM DEC’s future Intel version of Digital Unix for its 64-bit requirement instead of UnixWare – or Solaris x86 for that matter – claiming SCO doesn’t cut it as an enterprise platform. Wouldn’t it be easier for $38bn Compaq to simply acquire $200m-odd SCO and have done with it? No, says SCO, which says it’s spent $80m creating its new version of UnixWare. For starters SCO OEMs – many Compaq competitors – would likely defect to other Unix-on-Intel companies, such as Sun. Second, SCO’s already dropped a poison pill and wants to remain independent. And certain rights to key Unix technologies would revert back to their previous owner Novell Inc if SCO gets acquired. Novell holds 16.9% of SCO stock and still has a royalty stream being paid to it, while Microsoft Corp owns 11.7%.

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