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Linux group broadens membership

Extending its membership base beyond the computing industry, the Open Source Development Lab is inducting Unilever, whose sales count products such as soap and tea.

The Open Source Development Lab, a group dedicated to building high-end features into Linux, has taken its first step in a plan to expand its membership beyond the computing industry.

Unilever, a company with $49 billion in sales of everything from Dove soap to Lipton tea, has become the lab's first member that doesn't sell computing equipment, OSDL said on Thursday. The lab has been trying to broaden its membership to include those who use technology instead of just those who create and sell it, part of an attempt to gain a better understanding of what features are needed in the open-source operating system, OSDL Chief Executive Stuart Cohen said in an earlier interview.

OSDL was founded in August 2000 by IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Intel, Silicon Graphics and Linux companies including and SuSE. The sponsorship list has since grown to include newer Linux companies such as MontaVista Software and TimeSys, networking companies such as Cisco Systems and Alcatel, software companies such as Computer Associates, and telecommunications companies such as Ericsson and Nokia.

Two forces have converged to raise the profile of OSDL in recent months. First was the lawsuit involving Unix and Linux brought against IBM by SCO Group--which had been an OSDL founding member but since has discontinued its Linux product. OSDL's mission, rapidly bringing high-end features to Linux, is precisely what SCO has argued can't be done without infringing on its own Unix intellectual property.

Second, OSDL in July hired Linus Torvalds, the founder and leader of the Linux programming effort, as well as Andrew Morton, a key deputy who is overseeing the forthcoming 2.6 kernel, or core, of Linux.

OSDL is looking for members that aren't computing-product sellers, but it's also trying to expand that group as well. Four companies in talks to join are Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Novell and SAP, Cohen has said.