On Friday, Caldera posted an early version of its OpenLinux product designed for the Itanium chip, the first member of a 64-bit chip family from Intel designed to compete with Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc, Hewlett-Packard's PA-RISC, SGI's MIPS, IBM's Power, and Compaq Computer's Alpha.
Intel is heavily backing Linux to become one of three mainstream operating systems for the delayed chip. Under the new schedule, only a test batch of computers running on Itanium chips will come out this year. Systems for commercial consumption will arrive in the first half of 2001.
All the companies have cautioned that their releases are prototypes, though, and Caldera is no exception. The company's Itanium twist lacks the slick Lizard installer, some password management software or the X Windows graphical systems.
Microsoft's 64-bit version of Windows is in a similar state of unreadiness. Microsoft shipped a test version to developers last month.
HP, the co-inventor of the IA-64 architecture, also has been backing the Linux-on-Itanium effort. HP Labs' David Mosberger has led the effort to create a version of Linux for IA-64, and HP has released simulator software that allows programmers with ordinary 32-bit Intel machines to see if their 64-bit software will work.
Caldera, with its recent acquisition of Santa Cruz Operation's Unix software line, will have a tighter relationship with IA-64 chips than most Linux companies. SCO's UnixWare, along with IBM's AIX, is a key component of the "Monterey-64" version of Unix that will run on Itanium.