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LAS VEGAS—Linux supporters who hate SCO would have been shocked to see SCO CEO Darl McBride greeted with a roar of applaud from about 500 SCO resellers and integrators at its annual SCO Forum trade show.

Why was the “most hated man in IT” so warmly greeted? Because SCO’s Unix products make them money. It’s that simple.

It’s true for the huge Hewlett-Packard with billions in income; it’s true for small resellers with five to 10 employee and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Read more here about the business ties between SCO and HP.

Yes, Unix on Intel’s market share is shrinking. Trust me, these guys know that. Yes, all of the uproar over SCO’s Linux lawsuits is making their job a lot harder.

Indeed, when you get a partner in a bar, you’ll find that many of them don’t like SCO’s Linux litigation one bit. For the most part, they just want that to go away.

So, why are they so happy with McBride?

Well, it’s not, as McBride put it in his keynote, that he was defending their business from IBM or Linux’s inroads. Mind you, they admire his fighting attitude. They think IBM did hose SCO by killing off Project Monterey, SCO and IBM’s joint plan to bring 32-bit/64-bit AIX to the x86. But they have doubts about SCO’s intellectual property claims, and few of them believe SCO can win in its IBM lawsuit.

Click here to read an interview with McBride on why he thinks SCO can win.

No, they like him—and SCO’s people—because he gave them back the brand name, SCO, that they had learned to sell. It’s because he’s investing in the channel and in upgrading OpenServer, and to a far lesser extent upgrading UnixWare, never very popular with the channel.

Like HP, many of them sell Linux or Linux-related projects, too. But, they’re not likely to become major Linux partners anytime soon. As Rene Beltran, director of sales and marketing at DTR Business Systems, says, “We tried talking to Red Hat, and while they didn’t hang up on us, they made it clear that they didn’t know what to do with a reseller.”

And there you have the real key to SCO’s continued partner success: SCO knows how to talk and listen to its partners. It delivers updates to its operating system. The company works hard to get the hardware and software support for its operating systems without which SCO’s partners can’t do business.

SCO has even come up with the first new software program in years that its partners actually can sell to their existing legacy base: SCOoffice Server 4.1. This new program is a powerful but simple-to-use mail and collaboration server for OpenServer.

Now, you may be asking, what’s the big deal about a mail server? The big deal is that the customers of SCO VARs (value-added resellers) are a very conservative lot. They tend to be small businesses that use an operating system for one or two particular, vertical jobs.

With SCOoffice 4.1, the resellers finally have something new they can offer their customers that they really want. Many resellers told me they already have customers waiting for SCOoffice.

Is this big business? No. While, SCO does have some big customers, such as McDonalds and the Nasdaq Stock Market, most of its business comes from small VARs working with small customers. By taking care of those resellers, SCO is making the most of its small market share.

Other companies that work with resellers should pay attention. SCO has brought down on its head the enmity of IBM and of the entire open-source community. Despite that, its partners are continuing to work with the company and make the most of their opportunities.

Whatever you may think of SCO the company, there’s a lot to admire about SCO, the reseller partner.

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