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1/19/2007
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Linux Foundation Formed With Backing From HP, IBM, Intel

The new group, which will employ Linux inventor Linus Torvalds, is being formed from the merger of Open Source Development Labs and the Free Standards Group.

Two groups committed to the business adoption of Linux are merging to streamline operations and represent Linux with one voice.

The Open Source Development Labs in Beaverton, Ore., will combine with the Free Standards Group in San Francisco to form The Linux Foundation. The two six-year old groups shared overlapping memberships of business sponsors and overlapping goals, said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the new foundation.

"We will be a vendor-neutral organization capable of responding to competitors' attacks and FUD," Zemlin said in an interview Friday. He is the former executive director of the Free Standards Group.

The merger still needs to be ratified by the members of the two groups, which is expected to be completed in early February.

While the foundation will continue the activities of both groups, the merger also represents some continued paring down and refocusing of goals. First and foremost, Zemlin said, will be the continued independent employment of Linus Torvalds and other Linux kernel maintainers.

"We will provide a safe haven for key developers," Zemlin said, citing Linux package maintainer Stephen Hemminger as well as Torvalds. Andrew Morton, sometimes referred to as Torvalds' right-hand man as a kernel maintainer, left a job sponsored by the Open Source Development Labs in August to continue his Linux work at Google.

Torvalds, Hemminger, and other kernel developers were previously supported by OSDL. In December the group announced that it was cutting nine of 28 staff members and turning operations over to Mike Temple, its chief financial officer. At the time, OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Both groups depended on corporate sponsors for their annual budgets.

Key backers of The Linux Foundation include Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Novell, and Oracle. The group will have 70 vendor sponsors in all. Other members include Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC.

Zemlin said the foundation will continue to supply the Linux Standard Base, an agreed-upon set of system functionality that is supported by major Linux distributions. Keeping the Linux core functionality following a standard allows developers to produce applications that will run with different versions of Linux without modifications. The foundation also will provide the Linux Developer Network, which provides information and specifications on the services and interfaces that work with Linux.

The foundation will manage the Linux trademark and provide legal services, including the Open Source As Prior Art project to defend against patent challenges, and the Patent Commons, where companies may contribute their patents to be used in defense of Linux.

"Microsoft spends a lot of money protecting its Windows platform," Zemlin said. "We're going to do the same thing."

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