LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The four companies behind the UnitedLinux project unveiled the first generation of their distribution Tuesday, promising Comdex Fall attendees greater opportunities for open source software in the enterprise.

The SCO Group,

Connectiva, SA, SuSE Linux AG and TurboLinux formed UnitedLinux in May. Their products will continue to be sold under the partners’ own brands, but UnitedLinux will be based on the Linux Standards Base (LSB) and the LiN18ux standards and will be focused specifically on IA-32, 64-bit server products, where many Linux companies believe the open source OS holds the most promise as a competitor to established competitors like Microsoft.

Daryl McBride, president of the SCO Group, said the release was consistent with the partners’ promise to have the combined distribution ready by November. “A lot of folks didn’t think we’d make it to this point,” he said, “but the partners were able to put aside the political nature of the consortium to get this done.”

Paul Hunter, who was recently named general manager of UnitedLinux LLC, said the project came in response to enterprise users who have demanded a more predictable maintenance schedule for Linux, and a higher level of quality assurance.

“You might think having four companies involved increases the complexity. We want to buffer the customer from that,” she said, adding that the consortium would soon announce members of a Technical Advisory Board to determine the future direction of the distribution and a Professional Certification Program.

UnitedLinux received an immediate endorsement from Rick Becker, HP’s CIO for its Linux unit, who said four partners offered the kind of accountability customers need to take Linux seriously.

“They’re looking for companies big enough to take their calls,” he said, adding that developers and ISVs have been hesitant to work with Linux without a more consistent file structure. “They also want a schedule so they can manage future releases.”

Steve Solazzo, general manager of IBM’s Linux division, agreed, noting that support issues have become more important as Linux applications invade the enterprise. Three years ago, he said, “Linux was a pretty lonely place to be,” he said. “You’d be talking to the geeks, the techies and the students, but none of those people were investing in information technology.”

Solazzo predicted the UnitedLinux project would help propel use of the open source operating system in Web servers, e-mail servers and e-commerce while driving more development in new areas like point of sale. Having too many choices in the number of Linux distributions made this development difficult, he said. At one point, Solazzo said he was working with four different Linux favours on four eServer products with more than 50 applications.

“The permutations made your hair hurt,” he said, “even for me, and I don’t have that much hair.”

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