Leaked E-Mail Fuels Microsoft-SCO Conspiracy Theories

The heated battle between The SCO Group and the open-source community took another turn this week as an e-mail became public that seemed to imply Microsoft helped SCO raise millions of dollars for its legal war against open source.

The latest twist in the SCO saga arose when an outspoken open-source backer posted an e-mail between a SCO executive and an outside consultant that appeared to credit Microsoft with helping attract financial backers, including Baystar Capital, to fund SCO. Baystar provided SCO with US$50 million in financing last year.

Open for Interpretation

The e-mail was posted on opensource.org by that site’s publisher, Eric S. Raymond, who indicated he received the e-mail from a source inside Utah-based SCO.

SCO and Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment. In separate statements, however, the companies verified that the e-mail is real but said it does not indicate the type of close relationship some readers have assumed.

“We believe the e-mail was simply a misunderstanding of the facts by an outside consultant,” SCO said in its statement. “He was told at the time of his misunderstanding. Microsoft did not participate in or orchestrate the Baystar transaction.”

Conspiracy Theory

In detailed notes on his site, Raymond said the e-mail contains a “smoking gun” that shows Microsoft helped SCO garner the funds it has used to pursue its $3 billion lawsuit against IBM and file additional suits, most recently against enterprise Linux users AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler.

At one point, the e-mail reads: “Microsoft will have brought in $86 millionfor us including Baystar,” and seems to suggest that additional fundswill be available as a result of the software giant’s help.

No Secret

The e-mail no doubt will be powerful fuel for conspiracy theorists who believe Microsoft is the invisible hand behind SCO’s legal crusade against Linux software makers and, now, end users.

Microsoft has not hidden its concern about the rise of Linux and other open-source programs, naming the software as one of its major competitive challenges in a widely circulated internal memorandum last year and taking several steps, such as allowing major customers to look at its source code, aimed at countering the threat.

Microsoft also licensed the rights to use Unix source code from SCO last year, in a deal reported to be worth more than $10 million — a major boost for SCO.

“The two companies certainly have a common enemy in Linux and its followers,” Gartner analyst George Weiss told the E-Commerce Times, referring to Microsoft and SCO. “But the conspiracy theories seem to suggest that Microsoft is the man behind the curtain, pulling all the levers and making things go, and that seems like a bit of a stretch.”

Weiss said that getting too cozy with any single vendor of proprietary software would be too risky to SCO’s overall credibility.

Oops, I Did It Again

The e-mail was the second embarrassing technological development for SCO in as many days.

On Thursday, published reports suggested that a memo written in Microsoft Word showed SCO planned to sue Bank of America for its use of Linux. Instead, SCO targeted AutoZone and automaker DaimlerChrysler in court.

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