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LinuxWorld Expo: UnitedLinux and LSB Form Tenuous Connection

Aug 14, 2002, 15:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jacqueline Emigh)

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By Jacqueline Emigh

UnitedLinux is looking at shipping the final release of its new OS in November, even as several existing Linux distributions (including members of UnitedLinux) reach LSB (Linux Standard Base) certification by the Free Standards Group.

With LSB standardization already under way, why do Caldera, SuSE, TurboLinux, and Conectiva--the four founding members of UnitedLinux--feel the need to forge yet another Linux OS?

At LinuxWorld, the founders are coming up with technical as well as business rationales. "LSB provides a set of APIs. UnitedLinux, though, is a full OS, with a kernel and a desktop, for example," responded Markus Rex, SuSE's VP of development. UnitedLinux announced plans last night to ship a closed beta by the end of August, and an open beta about a month later.

"LSB is lousy. It allows as many differences between operating systems as Unix gave to OSes like Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX," contended Fernando M. Roxo da Motta, technical consultant at Conectiva.

UnitedLinux members also freely admit, though, that they need the new OS to give them a leg up against domination by industry kingpin Red Hat. Under their four-way distribution strategy, SuSE has nailed down the enterprise assignment. Caldera will tackle SMBs, through channel relationships inherited under its SCO acquisition. Conectiva will keep distributing in Latin America, while Turbolinux gets the Asia Pacific.

"I think that we will gain market share," acknowledged Conectiva's da Motta. For its part, TurboLinux has already been retrenching to its Asia Pacific stronghold anyway, as its North American arm undergoes restructuring due to financial losses.

In a press conference at LinuxWorld, Caldera CEO Darryl McBride told attendees that together, the four UnitedLinux members amount to more employees and channel partners than Red Hat. Channel partners for UnitedLinux total 16,000.

Still, all the employees of the new UnitedLinux could fit into "one subsidiary" of an HP or IBM, noted Gregory Blipp, SuSE's VP of infrastructure operations.

German-based SuSE has also been tapped for "operational" guidance. Although hesitating to even mention the name of UnitedLinux's main rival, Blipp took Red Hat to task for recent licensing issues with customers. Red Hat belongs to the Free Standards Group, but not to UnitedLinux.

SuSE is engineering the UnitedLinux operating system as well, but the new OS will integrate code from all four Linux distributions, said Rex.

Hardware makers HP, Fujitsu and Intel have already come out in press releases as UnitedLinux supporters. A representative of the New Hewlett-Packard was present at the launch, and UnitedLinux officials strongly hinted that IBM is also in favor of the new OS.

UnitedLinux has already lined up a number of ISV partners, too, although their names aren't being released at this point, according to McBride. Also at the San Francisco press conference, UnitedLinux rolled out a three-tier membership program for developers.

During the closed beta, set to become "physically available" on August 22, UnitedLinux plans to add "dedicated access points" for industry partners and customers.

"In the time frame between now and November, it is most important to get feedback from customers," Blipp maintained.

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