UnitedLinux Looks Forward To Beta Release

SAN FRANCISCO — A band of four companies Tuesday stood proud and proclaimed the anticipated arrival of their own brand of Linux, one that is expected to compete with similar products from Red Hat .

UnitedLinux (aka Caldera International Inc. , Turbolinux Inc., Conectiva SA and SuSE Linux AG) said an official beta version of its Linux operating software would be sent out to partners at the end of the month with a public beta due out in September. A final version ready for purchase is slated for the end of 2002.

The main components of the software include a Linux Kernel version 2.4.18 or higher, glibc version 2.2.5, gcc version 3.1, XFree86 version 4.2 and KDE version 3.0.

The offering will be Linux Standards Based (LSB), LiN18ux and GB18030 compliant and will come in eleven different languages including simplified and traditional Chinese and Hungarian.

The news is astonishing considering the four founding companies officially got together a scant six months ago at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York with the express purpose of a global, uniform distribution of Linux designed for business.

Now at this LinuxWorld, the firms seem ready to take on all comers including Red Hat, which was not initially a partner in the UnitedLinux but still has an open invitation to join. The firms said the initiative is still open to all Linux distribution companies.

“UnitedLinux is not a movement about anti-Red Hat,” said Ly-Huong Pham, CEO of Turbolinux. “It’s all about satisfying the needs of our customers.”

But the group admits their customers and vendors have been clamoring for and second major Linux vendor – a market that is currently dominated by Red Hat.

“There’s increased demand from vendors who want more than a single distribution of Linux. Red Hat is one… who will be the other?”

The idea behind the UnitedLinux movement has been to streamline Linux development and certification around the new distribution, making it attractive to ISVs and resellers who have had to train sales staff and certify each distribution they support. Each of the firms retains the right to maintain their own, consumer-centric Linux distributions.

“If we combined our market share, we have more than Red Hat,” said McBride. “If we combine our developer count, we have more than Red Hat.”

As for that open invitation to join UnitedLinux, Red Hat says they are again taking a wait and see approach.

In an interview with internetnews.com, Red Hat’s VP of Marketing Mark de Visser said that the circumstances would have to be advantageous for Red Hat to join UnitedLinux.

As a hypothetical, Red Hat says it would be required to lose its development staff in favor of UnitedLinux, then obviously Red Hat would not be interested. In reality, negotiations on the role of Red Hat in the newly formed group would have to be worked out.

Instead, Red Hat has gone out and made its own way, partnering with the likes of IBM , Oracle and Dell Computer .

Still, Caldera , Turbolinux, Conectiva and SuSE represent all four major markets for Linux-based enterprise solutions. SuSE, based in Germany, is very strong in the European market, Conectiva is strong in Latin America, Turbolinux has a very strong presence in the Asia/Pacific region, and Caldera is a strong player in North America. Collectively, the four players will lead in market share in Europe, Latin America and Asia/Pacific. In North America, they will be second in market share to Red Hat.

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