SCO Forum96 Keynoters Assess Industry

Speeches offer perspectives and controversy

The open systems industry was well-represented among the keynote speakers assembled for the tenth annual SCO Forum, held the week of Aug. 18 at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The keynoters were Alok Mohan, president and CEO of SCO; Dick Watts, vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard's computer systems organization; Scott McNealy, president, CEO and chairman of Sun Microsystems; and Doug Michels, executive vice president and CTO of SCO and one of the founders of UniForum.

Master of ceremonies Gary Horning, SCO vice president of strategic marketing, introduced Alok Mohan, who began by outlining some of the significant changes that have occurred at SCO since the last Forum. He highlighted the acquisition of UnixWare and increased spending in both R&D and marketing. He also built upon his recurring theme of partnering, which he started with his keynote address at this year's UniForum Conference in February, stressing SCO's close relationship with HP and his company's ongoing work with Data General, ICL, Morning Star and Netscape Communications. The latter two companies help to "give Internet functionality" to SCO's products.

"We have confirmation that Unix is the right market."

Mohan went on to one of the main themes of his speech: Unix and its continuing importance in the marketplace. He called Unix a "growing business," citing studies that predict double-digit growth through the year 2000. "We have confirmation from ourselves as well as [from others] that Unix is the right market. We also have confirmation from customers who vote with IT dollars," he said. Addressing the growing attention being paid to Microsoft Windows NT, he said, "Unix has always been two or three years ahead of NT" and that Unix offers "the performance, the scalability and the robustness that is what our business is about--better products."

He went on to explain a trend that he referred to as an Internet-driven shift in how applications are architected. "Microsoft led the client/server paradigm [which is] a thick client model. [We are] moving to an Internet-driven model which is server-centric." Mohan went on to say that SCO is moving toward this "Internet client/server" paradigm that will create "a whole new breed of applications and a whole new development environment that will lead to a whole new class of clients; we call them network clients." He expressed his belief that Unix is the best environment for that new paradigm.

Change and Coexistence

The main theme of the next keynoter, Dick Watts of HP, was change and how it affects the Unix customer and vendor community, particularly in the current environment of multiple operating systems. He cautioned that the reaction to change should not be to become isolationist, but to "build bridges or links with the dominant desktop environment (Windows)". He added that Unix "has inherent flexibility, innovation, adaptability and openness that is exactly its strength, which should allow it to move forward, coexist and interoperate. We [at HP] don't see the issue as Unix versus NT; we see the issue as Unix and NT and NetWare and Windows 95 and network computing clients and the Internet and technologies yet to be developed."

He summarized his viewpoint by saying that Unix "has a vital role to play in the future of heterogeneous, enterprise-wide operating environments, and will meet the challenges best if it adapts, evolves, coexists and interoperates with other environments that have a legitimate place in the broader enterprise system. If Unix can step up to those challenges, keep on the leading edge and be the innovative operating system for this more complex heterogeneous environment, it has a long and healthy future."

Unix Here to Stay

Scott McNealy of Sun brought his customary irreverence and controversy with him to Santa Cruz. He began by presenting the top 10 reasons why SCO selected him to be a keynote speaker at the Forum, as follows:

10. They wanted someone to do a top 10 list.

9. Take-over rumors are always good for the stock price.

8. Bill Gates wouldn't let Lew Platt [of HP] speak at a pro-Unix event.

7. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

6. SCO stands for Sun Collaborative Opportunity.

5. Santa Cruz can always use more Sun.

4. Bill Gates wouldn't speak for free--I would.

3. No other CEO would speak without AV support or demos.

2. The road to Santa Cruz is through Scott's Valley.

1. It's Java, stupid!

As usual, McNealy's talk was far-ranging, but the main thrust of his remarks was that Unix is here to stay. "The good news is that Unix keeps on dying like it does. This open market experience keeps on dying at about a 20 to 25 percent growth rate per year." He went on, "If you want to make money, you want something that's open, to which you can add value, that's flexible and scalable--it's the Unix environment." He chided Intel and Microsoft, calling them "monopolists" that do not really support true open environments.

McNealy also spoke about the vast impact of the Internet on the computing world. Calling it a "big discontinuity," he said, "It has created an event in the computer industry that I think many of you never thought would happen; it has created and is now driving standards." He ended his presentation with a prediction about the three architectures that will eventually remain in computing: Windows on Intel, RISC/Unix and the Internet/Web with Java as a significant factor.

Shift Happens

The final keynoter was Doug Michels, who took a historical look at paradigm shifts in the computing industry. "Being a veteran of Santa Cruz, I've been through a lot of earthquakes," he said. "We like to say 'Shift Happens,' and it's the paradigm shifts in this industry that really make it fun." He said he'd been fortunate enough to see some enormous shifts hit the industry. "The PC was monumental. I remember in the early '80s when we were all thinking about minicomputers and Unix, and how all that stuff was really going to be exciting. Then out comes this PC. A lot of people said they're going after the home market. 'It's not going to have anything to do with business, you know. That's not real computers; that's toys.'"

"The latest paradigm shift is the Internet."

The latest paradigm shift is the Internet. "The challenge for all of us, said Michels, "is to understand how that shift is going to affect our business." Standards are major components of the Internet paradigm, according to Michels. "It is the absolute embodiment of standards; nothing works on the Internet if it's not standards-conforming. If it's not open, if it doesn't interoperate, who wants it?" This led to a discussion of the concept of the network computer, which Michels characterized not as a piece of hardware, but rather as a standard or an idea. Now, you can "write an application--a graphical, easy-to-use, multimedia application and not know anything about the hardware that's going to run it on the client. That is tremendously empowering and will revolutionize the industry."

The keynotes ended just as the fog was breaking up along the coast, beckoning the 2,000 SCO Forum96 attendees to the many other activities at the week-long event.

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