Survey: Linux Developers Say No to SCO

A buzz of activity in the SCO-Linux legal saga probably is not distracting Linux developers from their work, according to a survey by Evans Data Corporation that indicates more than 90 percent of those developers believe SCO’s claim to own source code used in Linux has no merit.

SCO Group, a Utah software company, has shaken up the open-source community and larger software industry with its claims and lawsuits, including a multibillion-dollar contract suit against IBM, a defense against Linux vendor Red Hat’s countersuit and another case with Novell.

While the company has made few friends since making its claims and threatening end users if they declined to purchase a Linux license, SCO now has announced that Houston-based hosting company EV1.Net (Everyones Internet) will be its first Linux licensee. SCO also claims it is poised this week to take a major end user to court over unauthorized use of SCO’s intellectual property via Linux.

Linux developers may be less concerned with SCO than they are with building and improving Linux programs. But to a large degree, the credibility of the developer community as a whole is at stake based on SCO’s claims, according to Harvard Research Group vice president of Linux strategy Bill Claybrook.

“I would expect most Linux developers to say what they said,” Claybrook told LinuxInsider. “On the other hand, if there is code that has been moved from Unix to Linux, if it did get moved, it got there through a developer, so they do have some stake in this. They do have some part in the results of this lawsuit.”

Little Fear Effect

Nevertheless, Linux developers — who are increasing in number and now numerically equal Windows developers, according to some estimates — are more squarely focused on the advances of Linux and other open-source software, according to Evans.

“Most people realize that by demanding licensing fees, SCO wants the benefit of a court decision without actually trying the case, which is why their rants are met with jeers instead of fear,” said Evans Linux analyst Nicholas Petreley.

Evans reported that nearly 60 percent of respondents to its Spring 2004 Linux Development Survey have evaluated intellectual-property risks of Linux, with 13 percent indicating the SCO lawsuit will “probably” or “absolutely” impact their company’s adoption of Linux.

Two in five developers believe Linux distributors should offer guarantees against the potential impact of the suit, while nearly two-thirds think the case will have only a minor effect on Linux development.

Just Thinking Java

Evans’ Petreley also referred to developers’ focus instead on the growing momentum of Java programming for Linux, with the survey indicating use of the Java-based Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE) has grown 80 percent in the last year. Evans credited Eclipse’s variety of plug-ins that allow development of nearly all application types.

“Java is having a breakout year in Linux development,” Petreley said. “The open-source Java-based Eclipse development environment has shown astonishing growth in the past few years, and Java-based NetBeans isn’t far behind.”

Yankee Group senior analyst Dana Gardner told LinuxInsider that Java and Linux tend to complement one another, and he confirmed the momentum of the open-source programming language and operating system.

Corporate Caution

Claybrook said that although Linux developers surely are hoping for an outcome favorable to IBM and Linux — and probably are following developments in the dispute — they are not worried about the impact of SCO’s suits.

“It doesn’t affect their day-to-day work,” Claybrook said.

However, the analyst did say that developers probably have become much more careful about where code comes from. He referred to developer training from companies such as IBM and HP geared toward avoiding intellectual-property issues, which become increasingly complex as open-source code is mixed with proprietary code.

Following With Faith

Evans’ Petreley, who referred to this year’s survey as the second consecutive poll showing developers are not fearful from the SCO suit, told LinuxInsider that more than half of Linux developers are still investigating the licensing and other issues of the case.

“They’re somewhat disinterested, but they’re obviously following the SCO suit,” Petreley said. “They’re not afraid of what SCO can accomplish.”

The analyst added that there is an overarching belief that even if IBM did not prevail in the suit, Big Blue would protect its customers and users, including funding losses.

“[Linux developers] also think the outcome is not going to affect them much,” he said.

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