31 May 2002 Red Hat and MandrakeSoft, two of the biggest Linux operating system software vendors, are considering an invitation to join the UnitedLinux initiative, unveiled yesterday by rivals Caldera, SuSE, Conectiva and Turbolinux.
According to Ransom Love, CEO of Caldera and prime mover in the initiative, both companies have responded positively to approaches made earlier this week from the new UnitedLinux group.
UnitedLinux is an attempt by Caldera, SuSE, Conectiva and Turbolinux to introduce more rigorous standardisation to the Linux operating systems produced by the four vendors.
Their UnitedLinux will be based on one underlying distribution from SuSE, which is arguably the best of the four vendors’ distributions and highly regarded for its combination of reliability and ease-of-use.
In addition, Caldera will provide expertise in the area of clustering, while Turbolinux will lend its support for Asian character sets. Most of the development will be done by SuSE engineers in Germany.
A major motive for the initiative is to make it easier for independent software vendors (ISVs) to port their products to Linux. At the moment, ISVs either have to customise them for each distribution, or produce source code that users have to compile themselves. This has acted as a barrier to more widespread Linux usage.
Furthermore, the companies hope that it will persuade major hardware and peripherals vendors to work harder on producing Linux drivers. Open source developers have complained that some hardware vendors have made it difficult for them to produce drivers, fearing that it will put in jeopardy their relationship with software giant and operating system market leader Microsoft.
The hope is that a more unified Linux front will persuade them to change their mind and place Linux on a par with Microsoft Windows.
Most important of all for the Linux operating system vendors – all of which have struggled with profitability – it will enable them to cut the duplication of work involved in producing different distributions – each with their own subtleties and nuances – that are nevertheless based on the same underlying technology.
Instead, they will concentrate on developing their businesses around open source software and services, rather than pure operating system sales. This source of revenues has been undercut by the fact that their technology has to be made freely available under the terms of Linux’s general public license (GPL).