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Microsoft and Caldera – dispelling the myths

The aborted trial was a lot less important than you might think...

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As the dust settles after Caldera's defeat of Microsoft and the Caldera Systems IPO gets nearer, it's perhaps worth dispelling some of the myths that have arisen. The first is that Caldera Systems - the one that filed for the IPO - is closely-related to Caldera Inc, the winner of the settlement from Microsoft. Not only did Caldera Systems not know about the settlement in advance, as luck would have it, the announcement of its IPO - which had been in preparation for months - was planned for the day that Caldera Inc happened to announce the settlement. Here's the real situation: Caldera Inc, formed in 1994, now has no employees, and when it split in 1998, spawning Caldera Systems (the Linux distributor run by Ransome Love) and Caldera Thin Clients (run by Bryan Sparks), Caldera Systems paid a licence fee to Caldera Inc for the use of the Caldera name. An important reason for the split was the desire to separate the lawsuit from the operations of Caldera Systems, but the turf was also divided with the thin-client outfit based on system size. There is not even a financial link between Caldera Systems and Caldera Inc, although we'll know more about the finances of the company when the IPO details are published. Last year, Caldera Thin Clients was split into Lineo and the lawsuit, with only Sparks and Lyle Ball (PR) looking after the lawsuit. Caldera Inc owns 70 percent of Lineo, as well as DR-DOS and the lawsuit. So here's another myth: the settlement from Microsoft did not go to Caldera Systems, but to the shareholders of Caldera Inc - chief amongst whom is of course Ray Noorda, former CEO of Novell and Microsoft foe who provided the start-up funds, although there are around 20 minor shareholders who have also benefited. But here's the next myth: Ray Noorda was not the prime mover in bringing the case against Microsoft. The person Microsoft must thank for the opportunity to put right the wrongs it inflicted on DR-DOS is Sparks. Noorda wanted to remove his name from the lawsuit, so that he too could concentrate on his work of supporting start-ups. This was an important reason for his changing the name of the trust he established (the Noorda Family Trust) to the Canopy Group. So nearly all the Microsoft settlement money has ended up with Canopy, with some for the lawyers of course. We'll be watching Novell's accounts carefully too, because as part of its deal to sell DR-DOS to Caldera, for which it received $400,000, it also retained an interest in any award or settlement of the case, but we do not yet know how much. Novell's announcement of NDS for Linux is also amusingly related to all this, because who was the original Linux flag waver at Novell? Step forward Bryan Sparks. Lineo has been busy on its own account in the Far East, with the latest deals for its Embedix Linux product being with Insignia (for distributing the Jeode platform in the Embedix SDK), as well as some Korean activity with Samsung to use it for embedded Internet appliances (and there are rumours of a deal with Daishun too). Don't be surprised to read about a major Japanese deal soon (perhaps with Toshiba) and possibly a deal with Acer in Taiwan (where Lineo has a sales office). So far, there's no sign of WinCE in the marketplace. The Spyder browser developed for DR-DOS has been re-badged as the Embedix browser for x86 developers. It's a fair bet that there will be a Lineo IPO announcement before long, but that's enough myths mispelled for today. ®

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