Four Linux Vendors Launch ''UnitedLinux,'' Others May Join Soon

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 12:24 PM

In an unprecedented move today, Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE, and Turbolinux announced a joint development program known as UnitedLinux. As was expected based on leaks from the companies earlier this week, the foursome will merge their R&D efforts to create one core Linux distribution.

According to the group's press release this morning, each member company will continue to bundle their own “value added” material on top of the United Linux distribution. Information on just how much of a unique identity each group member will retain was not available at press time.

The UnitedLinux web site indicates that the companies plan to take a fast track on development of the system, with an alpha release this quarter, followed by a beta in Q3, and the release of 1.0 in Q4. Based on information found at their website, it seems UL will not be making the alpha or beta releases publicly available, however they do plan to make the 1.0 release available for noncommercial downloads. While it was not stated specifically on the site, it seems “noncommercial downloads” may suggest that the consortium will not be using Open Source licenses for all of their developments.

As of a short time after the announcement, the group's website had already been populated by positive comments from a variety of enterprise-related companies. Steve Solazzo, General Manager of Linux at IBM praised the group, saying “The formation of United Linux offers multiple benefits to the industry, proving yet again that cooperation on standards simplifies application development and deployment for vendors thereby providing our mutual customers with new applications more quickly.”

In a brief correspondence with Mandrake co-founder Gaël Duval yesterday, he confirmed that MandrakeSoft was in talks with the UnitedLinux group. He noted that there were many factors that his company was considering, delaying any immediate decision by Mandrake on whether to join.

RedHat's Vice President of
Marketing, Mark de Visser, also responded to the UnitedLinux announcement. In his statement de Visser said, “Too many distributions hamper the migration of applications to Linux, so
if this effort by Caldera and others consolidates distributions it is a
good development. But in Linux, application support is everything. Red Hat
Linux Advanced Server has it today. Time will tell if the Caldera group's
distribution will achieve the same level of support.”

At press time we had not heard back from other Linux distributors that we had contacted on whether they planned to join the alliance. Apparently, however, UnitedLinux is currently open to other joining, and the group's website noted that RedHat, Inc. had been contacted prior to the launch this morning.

In an eWeek report on this announcement, IDG analyst Al Gillen speculated that today's announcement is meant to level the playing field dominated by RedHat. Gillen noted “It is clear that Red Hat is the 300-pound gorilla in this market, and the other vendors are all struggling from a revenue and shipment perspective to remain relevant on a worldwide basis.”

How UnitedLinux will affect these distributions, and those opposite the announcement - such as RedHat and Mandrake - is still unclear. While it should promise to reduce development costs, SuSE is the only partner with a sizable worldwide share of the Linux market. That, coupled with financial woes of Caldera, has caused some to speculate that this merger of sorts may actually damage the better positioned SuSE Linux AG.

Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at
tbutler@uninetsolutions. com.