Caldera now charging for each Linux system

Bucking a trend in the Linux business, Caldera International begins charging for each copy of open-source software that customers use.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
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Bucking a trend in the Linux business, Caldera International has begun charging for each copy of Linux customers use.

Red Hat, SuSE and other companies that sell the Linux operating system typically allow users to install a copy of the software on as many computers as they want. Caldera, though, now requires users to pay for a "certificate of license authority" for each copy, said John Harker, vice president of server product management.

"Among the people we sell to and expect to get money from, I don't think it will cause any ill will," Harker said, adding that there still is a free version for noncommercial use. But some Linux fans disagreed.

"I thought about giving Caldera a try sometime. Not any more," wrote one poster at Linuxtoday. "Pay me for the air you breathe while you're at it."

The General Public License that governs Linux's heart, or kernel requires that any changes to Linux be published publicly. Caldera does so but also includes higher-level software covered by more restrictive licenses, Harker said.

Caldera, one of the few Linux companies to hold its initial public offering before investor enthusiasm for Linux and technology in general began to wane, has been struggling with today's more stringent environment. The company reported a net loss of $11.7 million in its most recent quarter. While that was less than competitor Red Hat's $27.6 million loss, Red Hat reported its first profit once one-time charges were factored out.

In a recent interview, Caldera Chief Executive Ransom Love said he expects his company to achieve profitability "within the next four to five quarters. We're on target or ahead of most of the industry," he said. Hampering the move was a write-off of investments such as those in Linux hardware and software company Ebiz Enterprises.

Meanwhile, faced with pressure from rival server makers, VA Linux said Wednesday it's abandoning the server market to focus instead on software and services.

Caldera straddles the fence between open-source software such as Linux and proprietary Unix. Through its acquisition of the Santa Cruz Operation, Caldera obtained the version of Unix originally developed by AT&T.

On Monday, Caldera released a new version of its OpenLinux server version and its Open Unix 8, an update to UnixWare 7 from SCO. Open Unix 8 can run Linux programs written to run on Intel chips with no modifications, a strategy Caldera hopes will encourage use of Linux on high-end servers where UnixWare has advantages over Linux.

OpenLinux Server includes Caldera's "volution management" software, which allows easier updates of Linux and associated software through Caldera's Web site, Harker said.