SCO may indeed get its wish

Back in 1997, six years before the lawsuit started, I wrote an article for Linux Journal that suggested the initials SCO stood for "Software Considered Obsolete". As I read about the fallout from the outright dismissal of most of its lawsuit against IBM, it seems more and more likely that "obsolete" will refer not only to the company's software but -- soon enough -- to the company itself.

In recent SEC filings, SCO indicated that it's burning though roughly US$1.2M per month on legal fees alone, which is more than its total revenue. Furthermore, that revenue is from existing customers who have systems to maintain; certainly nobody appears to be switching to their platforms. The company's new wireless initiative won't succeed even if it's technically good; developers and partners are staying away from a company that has demonstrated a willingness to sue its customers.

So revenue's dropping and the court case is disintegrating. What surprised me somewhat is that the company has set aside no contingency for losing:

"The ultimate outcome or potential negative effect on our results of operations or financial position of the [many legals cases] is neither probable nor estimable. Because these matters are not probable or estimable, we have not recorded any reserves or contingencies related to these legal matters."

As of last week, I think they may want to reconsider "not probable". In any case, it doesn't matter what they claim publicly (if it ever did). Clearly they've bet the bank on the case against IBM and have now been told by the judge that, even should they succeed on any of the remaining claims, the payoff won't be big.

I recall that many were speculating in the early days of the lawsuit that SCO was just trying to provoke IBM into buying it. There were all sorts of deals that would have guaranteed big payoffs for certain parties in the case that IBM or anyone else) moved to aquire SCO, clearly indicating the company was anticipating someone to make aplay. Heaven knows there was plenty of stock speculation from people hoping for a buyout payday. So shed a tear for anyone who bought SCO stock for $25 after the lawsuit was announced. As I write this it's at $2.65 -- near pre-lawsuit levels -- and continuing to tumble towards zero.

In the scenario I would like to see happen -- which is becoming more possible each day -- something similar this may indeed happen. Once IBM starts going after recovery of its legal fees, not to mention any other countersuits, there won't be much left to recover from a company that's unsuccessfully gone for broke.

So IBM may indeed prove those old analyses right and aquire SCO's assets -- but in a bankruptcy settlement, not the stock exchange. And the aftermath of that would be nice eradication of a lingering but nasty bit of FUD.

Just my opinions, of course.