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SuSE Denies UnitedLinux Per-Seat License Model; Announces Developer's Version

Jun 03, 2002, 20:30 (37 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

By Brian Proffitt,
Managing Editor, Linux Today

Representatives from SuSE Linux are anxious to help clear the air about some misunderstandings they feel have arisen around recent news regarding UnitedLinux. And to accomplish this, they have revealed plans for a developer's release of the new distribution.

UnitedLinux, a joint enterprise-oriented distrbution that will be created from the combined resources of Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE, and TurboLinux, was announced last week to the Linux community at large. Most of the reactions from industry analysts and community notables has been a wait and see approach. Some, however, have taken some strong exceptions to what they perceive UnitedLinux is trying to accomplish.

One of the most prevalent concerns is the alledged implementation of a per-seat licensing policy for UnitedLinux. According to SuSE, nothing could be further from the truth, at least as far as SuSE is concerned.

"We really don't plan any per-seat licensing for UnitedLinux," said SuSE's US Director of Sales Holger Dyroff. While he could not speak for the other companies within the UnitedLinux consortium, Dyroff was emphatic that such a major shift in licesning policy was never in the works for their products released under the UnitedLinux banner.

Under the agreement signed by the companies last week, each of the four distribution firms will contribute skills, manpower, and other resources to the development of a single UnitedLinux distrbution, which will then be marketed and released separately by each individual company. Each release will be branded by the individual companies, and will carry a "Powered by UnitedLinux" logo.

From some media reports, early statements from Caldera indicated that they were considering a per-seat license model for their UnitedLinux products and that perhaps other members of the consortium were considering this model as well. Given the separate marketing and sales structure each company has, it is entirely possible that any of the firms involved could use a per-seat license model, though no one in the consortium has made a formal statement regarding this possibility.

According to statements made by the consortium, the source code for the product would be made available under the GPL, though the binaries would not. This raised speculation that a per-seat licensing arrangement was in the works, particularly when no details were given on just how that source code would be distributed.

Dyroff acknowledged that no mention was made at the time of last week's announcement regarding the source code or development access to the UnitedLinux distribution, but he told Linux Today this afternoon that plans were indeed in the works to provide access to the distro for developers.

"We plan on having a downloadable developer's version as well," he stated. "We are absolutely committed to working with the community to produce this product under the GPL."

Currently, none of SuSE's products have a per-seat license arrangement, though the SuSE Maintenance utility (similar to the Red Hat Network) that is integral to the SuSE product does have a per-seat fee arrangement, Dyroff explained. The company has no plans to change this approach when they released their co-branded UnitedLinux enterprise product.

Bradley Kuhn, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation, who spoke strongly against a per-seat license model from UnitedLinux in media interviews last week, was interested to learn that SuSE was not planning on engaging in per-seat licensing. But, he was quick to add that this did not change the FSF's main concerns regarding UnitedLinux.

Kuhn stated that the FSF has long been concerned with the distribution companies' approach to free software. "Every one of these GNU/Linux companies have been including non-free software with their releases of GNU/Linux," he said, "It's a wrong-headed approach to mix free and non-free software."

Citing SuSE's own YaST application as an example, Kuhn said that the inclusion of software such as this completely negated the value of distribution. He feels the market is bearing the FSF out, too. "Users don't want this non-free software in their distros."

Dyroff and SuSE is engaged in a bit of damage control with respect to other areas surrounding UnitedLinux.

Because the product is targeted solely to the enterprise, Dyroff lamented, many people are under the impression that SuSE will be abandoning its desktop product line. Dyroff reiterated statements he made last week to the media that while they won't be within the UnitedLinux line, SuSE plans on maintaining releases of their SuSE Personal and SuSE Professional editions and stressed that SuSE has absolutely no plans to give up on their desktop models.

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