June 6, 2003

Darl McBride doesn't understand Linux

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -
That's really the heart of the SCO problem: Neither Darl McBride nor, apparently, a majority of SCO's Board of Directors, understands Linux, the GPL, Open Source or Free Software or anything related to them. Their thinking seems to be strictly old-line industrial, based on a marketing philosophy that assumes a sale gained by a competitor is one you have lost.Let's look at McBride's bio on the SCO Web site. It says:

"A technology industry veteran, McBride has 19 years of executive management and leadership experience. Before joining SCO, McBride was the president of Franklin Covey's online planning business. Prior to that, McBride has been the CEO of PointServe, a workforce optimization software company; and the founder, chairman, and CEO of SBI and Company, a professional services company. While at the helm of these companies, McBride was responsible for raising more than $100 million in venture capital.

"McBride has also been the senior vice president of IKON Office Solutions where he managed 4,000 employees and the buildup of a $500 million systems integration unit through numerous acquisitions, channel programs, and industry partnerships. From 1988 to 1996, he worked at networking leader Novell where he was responsible for growing Novell Japan's growth to more than $100 million in revenue. He concluded his tenure at Novell as vice president and general manager of Novell's Embedded Systems Division (NEST)."

He spent a number of years at Novell, a proprietary software company (that is now apparently starting to move toward open source, at least a little).

His last pre-SCO job was with Franklin Covey, for many years an also-ran to Dayrunner in the "pocket organizer" market, but more recently aggresive in selling electronified and webified ways to do the same thing -- with heavily patented, copyrighted and/or proprietary products, of course.

Before that he was at PointServe, a company that claims to offer, "For the first time. Effective Enterprise Service Optimization solutions for demanding, real-time service environments."

Whatever. This looks like one of those overhyped CRM (Customer Relationship Management) packages to me, and one whose functionality could easily be replaced with half-a-dozen simple Free Software apps and a PHP front end, at that. (This is the kind of proprietary software that is threatened most heavily by Free and Open Source applications: High cost, high markup, often heavily customized for specific customers' needs.)

Before that, SBI and Company. It's apparently a consulting firm of some sort. Their site is almost all Flash, full of buzzwords like "e-strategies" and "e-implementation," and runs on Windows/IIS.

Come to think of it, so does PointServe's site. The Franklin Covey site runs Solaris and Apache, at least. And Novell.com runs Netscape-Enterprise/6.0 on NetWare. (I mean, you'd expect Novell to use NetWare, right?

In any case, McBride is obviously no adamant Open Source booster.

If anything, he's been so steeped in competition based on proprietary, patented, copyrighted, and trademarked products that I doubt he can think of any other way to do things. If Linux "gets a sale" it's obviously a sale "lost" by SCO's Unix, and even if SCO decides to distribute Linux again, it's obvious that in McBride-land, a sale by SuSE or Red Hat or [name here] is a sale lost by SCO, even if the successful vendor is part of the UnitedLinux consortium -- which, as this is being written, still lists SCO as a partner.

Many marketing-trained executives have trouble understanding Free and Open Source Software or the idea of a "development community" sometimes being more valuable than straight-out, war-style, sports-metaphor, "we win, you lose" competition. Indeed, this is probably the biggest single barrier to widespread corporate Linux adoption.

We shouldn't single McBride out for his ignorance here -- except for the fact that he's actively attacking Linux as part of whatever unholy management scheme he's foisting on SCO and the company's poor customers and business partners, most of whom are probably wondering which one of them is going to be SCO's next legal harassment target.

The reality is, McBride should sell something simple like toasters or ice cream, businesses where thing are clear-cut, and there are no "interoperability" concerns and code re-use questions and all the other fuzzy problems that pop up in the software business.

Or at least he should go sell highly specialized proprietary software, preferably for Windows, where no one expects to see the code, and no raging Open Source maniacs run around calling vendors nasty names if they sue their competitors.

This way, Darl McBride could be happy (and probably make a lot of money, since many people still buy closed-source, proprietary software), and so could those of us who prefer Linux, because he would no longer affect us.

Of course, those of us who follow Linux and Open Source news would have a little less humor in our lives if McBride wasn't around. But what the heck. There are always our old staples, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, who are still good for a laugh now and then.

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