Tarantella, Inc. is a company that develops and sells the Secure Global Desktop range of terminal services applications, formerly known as Tarantella and Canaveral iQ. Before 2001 the company was known as The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO), best known for selling two Unix variants for Intel x86 processors: Xenix (later known as SCO UNIX and SCO OpenServer) and UnixWare.
In 2001, SCO sold its rights to Unix to Caldera Systems, retaining its Tarantella product line, and changed its name to Tarantella, Inc. Caldera subsequently changed its name to The SCO Group, which has created some confusion between the two companies. The company described here is the original Santa Cruz Operation, called by some "old SCO" to distinguish it from "The SCO Group".
The Santa Cruz Operation and UNIX
SCO was founded in 1979 by Doug Michels and his father Larry Michels as a UNIX porting and consulting company. In 1983 it shipped Xenix for the Intel processor, its first packaged UNIX System. Xenix, renamed SCO UNIX in 1989 following SCO's port to the Intel 80386 processor, became the most installed flavor of UNIX due to the popularity of the x86 architecture.
The company went public in 1993 on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.
In 1995 SCO acquired the AT&T UNIX source code from Novell and eventually became the licensor for UNIX. SCO also acquired the UnixWare operating system, at which time it renamed SCO UNIX as SCO OpenServer.
SCO announced on August 2, 2000 that it would sell its Server Software and Services Divisions, as well as UnixWare and OpenServer technologies, to Caldera Systems, Inc. The purchase was completed in May 2001. At that time Caldera changed its name to "Caldera International", and the remaining part of SCO, the Tarantella Division, changed its name to "Tarantella, Inc."
People in the tech community have generally not understood why SCO was successful, or why Caldera wanted to buy the UNIX products. This was due to 15,000 value-added resellers (VARs) around the world who provided solutions for customers. For example, a doctor's office may want a computer, some terminals, accounting and health management software. The value-added resellers would provide that. The cost of the operating system was negligible, and the VARs liked it quite high anyway since they would add a standard markup to each item sold (5% of $1500 is a lot more than 5% of $29.99). Caldera wanted SCO's VAR channel to push Linux through, banking on larger revenues. In the end, the once loyal channel realised they could do Linux directly themselves and didn't need to be tied to a corporation.
In August 2002 Caldera International renamed itself "The SCO Group" since the SCO UNIX products were still a strong source of revenue mainly due to the huge installation base dating back to the 1990s. It is this SCO Group, formerly known as Caldera, and not the former Santa Cruz Operation now known as Tarantella, that sued IBM in 2003 for $1 billion for allegedly "devaluing" Unix by contributing to the Unix-like Linux operating system. See also SCO v. IBM.
In 1993 SCO acquired IXI Limited, a software company in Cambridge, UK, best known for its X.desktop product. In 1994 it then bought Visionware, of Leeds, UK, developers of XVision. In 1995 the development teams from IXI and Visionware were combined to form IXI Visionware, later the Client Integration Division of SCO.
The Client Integration Division was relatively independent of the rest of SCO. Specialising in software to integrate Microsoft Windows and UNIX systems, it retained its own web site for some time and ported its software to all major UNIX platforms including those of SCO's competitors. There was occasionally friction between CID and the rest of SCO: broadly, CID saw SCO as being slow-moving and bureaucratic; SCO saw CID as being arrogant and deliberately uncooperative.
In 1997 the Client Integration Division released the Vision97 (later Vision2K) family of products: XVision Eclipse (a PC X server), VisionFS (an SMB server for UNIX), TermVision (a terminal emulator for Microsoft Windows), SuperVision (centralised management of users from Windows), SQL-Retriever (ODBC-compliant database connectivity software, later dropped) and TermLite (a lightweight version of TermVision). The VisionFS product was developed from scratch by the Cambridge development team; the other products were developed by the Leeds development team (mostly new versions of the existing Visionware products).
In parallel with Vision97 development, a separate development team began work in 1996 on a project codenamed Tarantella. The goal of this project was "any application, any client, anywhere": to provide access to applications of any type (hosted on back-end servers) from any client device that supported a Java-enabled web browser.
The first Tarantella web site, with live demos of simple applications, appeared in December 1996. The project codename stuck: it became the final product name. The first public release of Tarantella software was in November 1997. Later version 1.x releases supported more application types (such as Microsoft Windows applications) and client types (including Native Clients to remove the dependency on Java support), and added scalability and security features to better support larger enterprises and secure application access over the Internet.
The product was renamed Tarantella Enterprise II in late 1999, with a cut-down Tarantella Express product available on Linux systems. This renaming was a simple rebrand of the then-current 1.x release: no version 2.x software was released.
In April 2000 SCO reorganised into three divisions: the Server Software Division, the Professional Services Division and the Tarantella Division. At this time the web site moved from tarantella.sco.com to www.tarantella.com, reflecting the importance and independence of the Tarantella brand.
In November 2000 version 3.0 of the product was released, including a major rewrite of much server-side code in the Java language. The product was rebranded as Tarantella Enterprise 3, with releases for Linux and major UNIX systems. Further 3.x releases followed in subsequent years, adding more integration features in competition with similar software from Citrix.
In 2001, having sold the UNIX business, the company renamed itself after its remaining product line. However, despite growth in sales, the company consistently failed to meet sales targets, citing the downturn in tech markets. Despite a well-regarded main product, the company has never been profitable. The company laid off staff in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
In 2003 the company lost compliance with regulations for continued listing on Nasdaq's SmallCap market. As a consequence it implemented a 1-for-5 stock split. At the same time it bought New Moon, developers of Canaveral iQ, a terminal services application for Microsoft Windows that competed directly with Citrix.
The financial problems continued during 2003. In July, CEO Doug Michels stated that "isolated business practices" in the European Sales territory would affect revenues for the previous quarter. Later more discrepancies were found, causing a wider review of revenues for earlier quarters too. These reviews delayed the reporting of quarterly results, taking the company out of compliance with Nasdaq regulations once more.
In September 2003 the Chairman of the Board (and former SCO CEO) Alok Mohan became acting Chief Financial Officer, replacing Randall Bresee. In the following month the company was delisted from Nasdaq and began trading "over the counter". Also in October the company received additional private investment.
On December 11, 2003 Doug Michels was replaced as CEO by Frank Wilde. On January 6, 2004 John Greeley was appointed as the new CFO.
More changes at the top of the organization followed in February: most members of the executive team were replaced. At the same time US$16 million of additional investment was received, and in March the company acquired Caststream, Inc., a provider of collaboration software. (Note that Caststream was run by several members of the management team that Frank Wilde brought with him.) In April the company began to comply once more with financial reporting obligations, and was seeking relisting.
On May 10, 2004 the company rebranded. The former Tarantella Enterprise 3 and Canaveral iQ products became Secure Global Desktop, Enterprise Edition and Secure Global Desktop, Terminal Services Edition respectively.
- Official home page (http://www.tarantella.com/)
- SCO Announces Official Closing of Sale of two Divisions to Caldera (http://www.tarantella.com/news/releases/2001/6995.html) - Press release, 2001
- Secure Global Desktop Enterprise Edition product page (http://www.tarantella.com/products/ee/)
- Secure Global Desktop Terminal Services Edition product page (http://www.tarantella.com/products/tse/)
- Official company history (http://www.tarantella.com/company/history.html)
- Investor-related press releases (http://www.tarantella.com/investor/info/releases/index.html)
- Thin Planet interview with Tarantella marketing director (June 2004) (http://www.thinplanet.com/trends/tarantella.asp)