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When Four Become One: UnitedLinux - page 2

The Birth of UnitedLinux

  • May 29, 2002
  • By Brian Proffitt

Under the new agreement, each company will have its own role to play. SuSE Linux will act as the systems integrator for the distribution, tying all of the code and packages together into UnitedLinux. The other three companies will act in more quality assurance and testing roles.

Claybrook cited the value of this arrangement, as it gives each company more time and resources to produce value-added products instead of devoting so much energy to creating a distribution as well. Since the companies will have to work together to build the unified distro, special attention will be paid to the Linux Standards Base, a voluntary project working to stanadrdize code in all Linux distributions.

This does not mean that the SuSE, Caldera OpenLinux, TurboLinux, and Conectiva distros are going away. The briefers at the meeting outlined that each company will continue to package and distribute the UnitedLinux distribution under their own brands, with their own boxes. Only a special UnitedLinux logo will appear on each distro's box to identify the unified brand.

This approach may undermine some of the key benefits of UnitedLinux, however. Claybrook speculated that if each distribution is allowed to included their own value-added products in the boxed sets, this could complicate or even negate the single code base philosophy that is being touted to ISVs. Even though the code base will be unified, the inclusion of different applications between distributions could create some software conflicts that ISVs would have to contend with.

The emphasis on the individual companies' brands is only natural, but if "UnitedLinux" is de-emphasized too much, Claybrook mused, then it becomes weaker against another area in which Red Hat is very strong: branding.

"Overcoming brand recognition is a big obstacle," Claybrook said.

The source code for UnitedLinux will be available under the GPL, and can be re-distributed under that license's terms. The UnitedLinux brand, however, will stay with the original code base and cannot be claimed by any company not actively working on the project.

The emphasis on high-end, enterprise-level customers was stressed at the analysts' meeting, but it was not clear where this market positioning will leave existing products such as SuSE Personal, which are clearly aimed at another demographic.

Another unknown: sources have indicated that there will be one code base provided for IBM's eServer platform. How this will affect SuSE and TurboLinux, two companies that have been openly competing for share on this platform, is anyone's guess. Since IBM is one of the main sponsors of this project, they stand to reap the benefits of both distributions, whichever way IBM chooses.

UnitedLinux, still in its early stages, will probably strive to answer these conundrums soon.

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