UnitedLinux vendors debut new wares at Comdex

The first UnitedLinux standardized Linux distribution, announced six months ago by four Linux vendors that teamed up to work together, was unveiled Tuesday by The SCO Group Inc. at Comdex.

SCO Linux 4.0 Server Powered By UnitedLinux is available now, and the workstation version of the open-source operating system will be released in January.

UnitedLinux brings together SCO and three other independent Linux vendors, SuSE Linux AG, Conectiva SA and Turbolinux Inc., along with more than a dozen hardware and software vendors in creating a standardized commercial Linux operating system. Each of the four vendors will sell their own branded version of the operating system, which will be compliant with the existing Linux Standard Base and the Linux Internationalization Initiative.

Germany-based SuSE also plans today to reveal its UnitedLinux distribution; Brazil-based Conectiva and Brisbane, Calif.-based Turbolinux are also expected to make announcements at the show.

SCO’s server operating system is priced from US$599 to US$2,199 per server, depending on the amount and level of technical support chosen.

The launch of the product by Lindon, Utah-based SCO, formerly known as Caldera International Inc., is being made in coordination with the launch of the overall UnitedLinux 1.0 product today.

Chris Sontag, vice-president of SCO’s operating systems division, said the new server operating system includes an automated installation, support for up to 4GB of memory and clustering capabilities.

Although UnitedLinux and its four partner vendors still lag behind U.S. Linux market leader Red Hat Inc., Sontag said SCO will continue to market its wares to small and midsize businesses where Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat hasn’t been aiming.

“We view Microsoft as our main competition, more so than Red Hat,” Sontag said. “Red Hat targets more of the Sun Solaris shops, more than the SCO shops.”

The idea for teaming with SuSE, Conectiva and Turbolinux has been to bring the strengths of the foursome together to build a best-of-breed package, while making it easier for independent software vendors to create software for just one standard operating system rather than four separate products.

And despite the slow IT economy right now, this is a good time to launch the operating system, Sontag said, because target businesses are moving forward with Linux, he said.

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said the UnitedLinux effort appears to be a case of “essentially merging the companies without really merging the companies.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful way to put together a package.”

Although the alliance will simplify things for software vendors, there are questions about how the four UnitedLinux partners will police their relationship, he said.

“It’s not clear who will lead the dance,” Kusnetzky said. “Will what SuSE thinks is important come to the forefront? It’s not clear whose needs will be addressed first and who will come after.”

Kusnetzky said he also remains skeptical of the idea that the UnitedLinux effort can wrestle the U.S. Linux market from Red Hat. Presently, the four UnitedLinux partners have about 24 per cent of the U.S. market combined, while Red Hat has about twice that, he said.

“They imply that somehow they’ll change the Linux market, but the reality is that it’s hard for any company to get ahead in the open-source market because [as innovations are added,] everyone will have it eventually,” Kusnetzky said. “Any advantage is only for a moment.”