After a suitable period of pre-launch hinting, the UnitedLinux
initiative sent out a
announcing its existence. A press release is about all
there is, at the moment; the realization of the goals behind United Linux
will take a little longer.
UnitedLinux is a joint venture between Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE and
Turbolinux. Essentially, the four will be combining much of their Linux
distribution development operation. The advantages of this combination are
fairly clear: much duplicated work can be eliminated, and the companies
will have at their disposal a single base distribution which is standards
compliant and uniform. The companies' four distributions have all lacked
sufficient market share to inspire software vendors to target them. One,
larger distribution, it is hoped, will be more successful at attracting the
independent software vendors of the world.
An alpha release of UnitedLinux, apparently based most heavily on SuSE's
distribution, is due in the near future, with the general release happening
in the fourth quarter of this year. Each distributor will then add its own
special offerings and sell the result under its own brand. Interestingly,
release plans page mentions KDE 3.0, but says nothing about
GNOME. Several "installation languages" will be supported.
The biggest controversy over UnitedLinux would appear to be whether it will
be available as a free download. The initial statements from the group
have been mixed. We will have to wait and see on that one. A more
worthwhile question might be: will UnitedLinux expose its development
version the way Mandrake, Debian, and Red Hat (sort of) do? Inviting
outsiders into the development process is a far more convincing sign of
openness than distributing free binaries.
The other open question, of course, is: what other companies might join? An
invitation has been extended to Red Hat, but nobody really expects that
company to want to be a part of UnitedLinux. MandrakeSoft is a more
interesting possibility; it is by far the largest other distributor which
is not currently a part of the group. Thus far, MandrakeSoft has been
awfully quiet about UnitedLinux.
If UnitedLinux lives up to its promise, it could become the platform upon
which a new generation of distributions can grow. Doing UnitedLinux right,
however, will require keeping both the free software community and the
commercial world happy. This goal should be achievable; we wish this group
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