A new Desktop Linux Working Group is being created by the nonprofit Open Source Development Labs Inc. (OSDL) to explore and develop the use of Linux on the desktop for business users.

In an announcement on Tuesday, the Beaverton, Ore.-based group said the project will begin by identifying a broad set of Linux desktop uses and templates, which will then be used to create specifications and reference implementations.

The working group will focus on a variety of Linux usage models, including e-mail and calendaring, applications, client/server, rich client and thin client uses, branch office needs and help desk needs, said Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL in Beaverton, Ore. “It’s pretty broad in its scope because we think there’s a lot of places where Linux could be implemented on the desktop today, and yet there’s a lot of places where Linux would never reach.”

The group expects to get the first usage models defined and laid out with specifications by the middle of the year, he said.

The new working group includes staffers from OSDL member companies IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., OpenDesktop.org, Intel Corp., Novell Inc., Red Hat Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

The working group is the third created by OSDL since it was founded in 2000, joining existing working groups aimed at Data Center Linux and Carrier Grade Linux in business computing.