Sun Microsystems Inc was closeted with Novell Inc last week negotiating a deal to buy all rights to its Unix-derived Solaris source code, today’s edition of our sister paper Unigram.X reports. The purchase, which insiders said could cost Sun anywhere from $90m to $125m, would mean it never again has to pay royalties for its […]
Sun Microsystems Inc was closeted with Novell Inc last week negotiating a deal to buy all rights to its Unix-derived Solaris source code, today’s edition of our sister paper Unigram.X reports. The purchase, which insiders said could cost Sun anywhere from $90m to $125m, would mean it never again has to pay royalties for its operating system to Unix’s titular owner. It would also allow Sun to license the code to other Unix vendors, develop the thing in its own way and collect all the royalties for itself. Some worry that the move will re-fragment the Unix industry along major new fault lines and drive despairing OEM customers into the Microsoft Corp Windows NT fold. The move is a logical one for Sun, which has been dead set on such a course since the middle of last year when its SunSoft unit geared up to push Solaris to OEM customers of Unix and to top personal computer houses – its first convert was Amdahl Corp. Last week’s deal was said to cover only Unix System V.4-derived code, putting potential customers Hewlett-Packard Co and IBM Corp beyond Sun’s immediate reach unless it can persuade them to the unthinkable – adopting Solaris. HP-UX and AIX are derived from pre-System V.4 Unixes, but Hewlett is also believed to be negotiating the rights to its HP-UX binaries from Novell. Sun is expected to pay Novell about $15m this year in binary royalties. Projecting on the price Sun could be paying probably around the $100m mark – it could represent five or six years’ worth of royalties provided its market maintains current levels. The agreement is the first ever of its kind on Unix, and the only other arrangement that is the least bit similar was when Cray Research Inc last year bought out its source code licence, but the intention was in no way the same. Its customers need source code and were used to buying it and paying royalties to both Unix Labs and Cray. Novell is said to be aware of the risk it is running letting Sun set itself up as an alternative Unix source. However, it is also apparently betting that it can outmarket Sun with its System V.4.2 UnixWare – but word is that it has sold only 35,000 packages since the thing hit the market 13 months ago. Sun, on the other hand, has been meeting considerable resistance to its Solaris 2.x software, with its users said to be forming 4.1.3 or Die clubs. Observers are sceptical that the number of Solaris 2.x units SunSoft says it has shipped are in use.