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Linux Boosters Look To Keep The OS Together

Major Linux distributors say they have agreed to support a single version of the freely exchanged open-source operating system.
Major Linux distributors on Monday said they have agreed to support a single version of the freely exchanged open-source operating system to ensure that it's growing popularity in corporations isn't derailed by fragmentation. The Free Standards Group, a nonprofit trade organization based in San Francisco, announced the pact, saying the vendors had agreed to support the Linux Standard Base 2.0. Companies that have jumped on the bandwagon include Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp., Red Hat Inc., Novell Inc. and others.

Experts have said that fragmentation was possible as Linux platform distributors add their own layers of software on top of the operating system. As a result, corporate customers attracted to standards-based technology would be less likely to adopt Linux out of fear of becoming locked in to a single vendor's platform.

As a standards-based technology, Linux has made strides in the corporate market as a operating system within computer servers, which are high-powered systems for running business applications. Within the server market, Linux has become a fierce competitor against Microsoft Corp.'s Windows platform.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Free Standards Group, said that by agreeing to support LSB 2.0, the vendors would use standardized application programming interfaces to connect their software to Linux, which means a company could dump software and plug in a competitor's application without affecting the underlying operating system.

"This standard enables customers to be able to chose based on the reliability of software, the maintenance the vendors supply and the cost, Zemlin said.

Without widespread support of standards, Linux would face the possibility of going the way of Unix, an older universal operating system that eventually became divided through proprietary products sold by IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems Inc. and others.

The latest initiative, however, goes a long way toward preventing similar fragmentation with Linux, which would certainly have benefited rival Microsoft, Zemlin said.

"From an end-user perspective, the cost of running Linux just got a lot cheaper in the long run," Zemlin said.

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