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Open-source shifts spell an end for UnitedLinux

The four-company consortium, formed to counterbalance Red Hat's dominance in the Linux market, is all but dead, its one-time general manager tells CNET News.com.

NEW YORK--UnitedLinux, a four-company consortium formed to counterbalance Red Hat's dominance in the Linux market, is all but dead.

"The legal entity exists, but I shut the lights out," former UnitedLinux general manager Paula Hunter said in an interview Thursday at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here. Hunter is now channeling her Linux collaboration energies into a new job: director of business development on the East Coast for the Open Source Development Labs.

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The shutdown marks the end of an ambitious effort to attract more hardware and software partners, standardize Linux, and boost research and development. Instead, it was OSDL--a more neutral coalition in the Linux industry and the employer of Linux leader Linus Torvalds--that succeeded where UnitedLinux failed.

"It's where we would have liked to have gone with UnitedLinux," Hunter said. "OSDL already has got the industry partners engaged--software and hardware companies and end users."

Dramatic changes in the Linux landscape triggered the demise of UnitedLinux. Most prominently, one of its founding members, the SCO Group--previously Caldera International--has abandoned its Linux software business in favor of suing IBM and demanding that Linux users pay it based on its assertion that the open-source operating system is tainted with SCO's Unix intellectual property.

But SCO refused to resign from UnitedLinux. "As long as they remained a member, it remained impossible for us to begin new projects," Hunter said.

SCO's Linux reversal isn't the only change, though. SuSE Linux, whose software formed the foundation for a version shared by all four companies, has been acquired by Novell. Along with that acquisition will come an endorsement from IBM, the loudest Linux advocate, in the form of a $50 million investment in Novell.

SuSE's president, Richard Seibt, said Wednesday that his company will continue to cooperate with the other two UnitedLinux partners, Conectiva in Brazil and Turbolinux in Japan.

It's good that UnitedLinux is fading, Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said. SuSE achieved enough weight to counterbalance Red Hat on its own, and the consortium is now a mere "distraction," he said.