HP To Protect Linux Customers from SCO Suit

Hewlett-Packard has announced it will indemnify users of its Linux-based solutions from legal action being pursued by The SCO Group. The move seeks to reassure potential customers while possibly making HP hardware more attractive to lawsuit-wary enterprises.

HP could not immediately be reached for comment, but according to published reports, HP vice president Martin Fink has said the indemnity will cover the entire Linux suite and any SCO-related action, and HP will take over customers’ defense against any claims made by SCO.

Move Applauded

For its part, SCO said the move by HP “reaffirms the fact that enterprise end users running Linux are exposed to legal risks.”

“Rather than deny the existence of substantial structural problems with Linux as many Open Source leaders have done, HP is acknowledging that issues exist,” the company said in a statement. “HP’s actions are driving the Linux industry towards a licensing program. In other words, Linux is not free.”

The statement urged others to follow HP’s lead. “Now that HP has stepped up for its customers, SCO once again encourages Red Hat, IBM and other major Linux vendors to do the same. We think their customers will demand it,” the statement said.

Split Opinion

Analysts have been split on how the Linux drama will play out, with many saying SCO’s reluctance to detail its evidence, specifically which part of the Linux kernel code it claims to own, suggests its case may not be strong enough to withstand extensive legal challenges.

Others say the true legal intricacies might not matter, because enterprises might seek an easy solution, such as a Linux license.

“If companies feel SCO has a chance of winning, they may decide to cut out the suspense and get on with things,” Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) principal analyst Stacey Quandt told the E-Commerce Times. “But I think most are going to hold their ground and wait to see what happens. There’s still more questions than answers.”

Matter of Time

In addition to filing a US$3 billion lawsuit against IBM, SCO has vowed to pursue enterprises that are using Linux, which it claims contains lines of code identical to code in its own proprietary Unix source. Over the summer, the company released a price list for licenses that would offer protection from legal threats.

SCO’s actions, starting with its suit against Big Blue in March, have prompted numerous reactions, ranging from a countersuit filed by leading Linux distributor Red Hat to hacker attacks that brought down SCO’s Web site for several days last month.

Meanwhile, most enterprise customers seem undaunted by the legal uproar and continue to move forward with Linux deployments, with most eager to realize the cost savings the platform can offer over proprietary alternatives. Analysts have advised companies to consider the cost of eventually having to pay SCO a fee to use Linux or to otherwise factor the matter into the total price of using Linux.

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