Four small Linux vendors this week said they're joining together to create a common code base in an effort to attract more independent software vendors and hardware makers to support their versions of the open-source operating system.
The four companies are Conectiva, MandrakeSoft, Progeny Linux Systems and Turbolinux. Progeny has headquarters in Indianapolis, while Conectiva, Mandrakesoft and Turbolinux are based in Brazil, France and Japan, respectively.
Linux market leaders Red Hat and Novell both declined invitations to take part in the joint initiative. A Novell spokesman said company officials are supportive of the new group, but "at this point, we're simply giving them moral support."
Ian Murdock, chief strategist and co-founder of Progeny and a founder of the Debian open-source project, said the idea behind the Linux Core Consortium is to help reduce incompatibilities for users and independent software vendors by building a single code base that's compliant with the Linux Standard Base 2.0 specifications.
Individually, the four companies don't have the clout or customer base to attract strong interest from software and server makers, Murdock said. They hope to change that by developing the common set of core binaries, which is due to be available for incorporation into their operating systems in next year's first quarter.
But the vendor group has its work cut out for it, said Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Robert Frances Group in Westport, Conn. "I understand what they're doing," Quandt said. She predicted, though, that the effort "will have limited success" because Red Hat and Novell's SUSE Linux unit already offer independent software vendors the Linux platforms they need to support.
Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, said he also doesn't expect the Linux consortium to attract a huge amount of interest from the software vendors. "I'm skeptical it's going to make a big difference," he said, noting that many of the vendors don't want to support more than one or two Linux brands.
Murdock acknowledged that the presence of Red Hat and Novell would "make the result of the initiative stronger." But he said it's understandable that they don't feel the same need to join in as the other vendors do. "They're probably happier with the current situation than the rest of us," he said. "But we firmly believe that situation isn't in the best interest of the industry in the long haul. We hope they come to thinking the same way."
The Linux Core Consortium is reminiscent of UnitedLinux, a joint initiative that was set up in May 2002 by Conectiva, Turbolinux, Caldera International and SUSE Linux prior to its acquisition by Novell. Caldera has since renamed itself The SCO Group.
UnitedLinux largely came undone after Lindon, Utah-based SCO began its legal campaign against Linux vendors and users in March 2003.
Murdock said the new effort will incorporate some of the lessons learned from UnitedLinux. "It was a great idea that was badly executed," he said. "In a lot of ways, we're trying to realize the potential UnitedLinux had."
Reporter Carol Sliwa contributed to this story.