An operating system from UnitedLinux is nearing first release and is being touted as the most coherent and global Linux offering by members of the consortium backing it.
The product will go into closed beta for selected application providers at the end of this month, moving to an open beta one month later.
The four consortium members - Caldera International, Conectiva, SuSE Linux and TurboLinux - have also announced a partner and developer programme designed to streamline certification and future development.
David Gurr, UK business development manager for Caldera, said he expected release 1.0 by the end of the year. "UnitedLinux is a single coherent product with the source guaranteed to build one binary, not a collection of independent pieces. This is unusual for Linux implementations but attractive to resellers," he said.
The companies say minimal overlap between their geographical focus will boost global coverage. SuSE is strongest in Europe, Conectiva in Latin America, TurboLinux in Asia, and Caldera in the US.
The UnitedLinux partner and developer programme includes a Linux Distributor Partner category, aimed at companies with their own distribution channels who can offer high support levels and additional software to meet specific customer demands.
Companies within this category will gain extra marketing and resale rights and become technical advisory board members (TABMs) with access to the UnitedLinux build environment and input to source code change decisions.
Two other categories of board members have been outlined. Developing members will be companies already investing in Linux development to ensure compatibility or optimisation of hardware and software. They will also have voting rights.
Meanwhile the developer programme, which is still to be fully fleshed-out, is aimed at resellers. It will offer marketing support, technical training, certification and an entry in a software and middleware catalogue. They will not vote but their membership costs will be lower.
"One thing that worries users of open source software is the absence of an implicit contract," said Gurr. "So, as an article of faith, UnitedLinux will have a per-system licence. This will clarify issues such as the right-to-use and liability."
In addition to English, the first release of UnitedLinux will support Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Hungarian and the major Asian languages: Japanese, simplified and traditional Chinese, and Korean.
Major competitor Red Hat Linux supports a much longer list of languages, although it is still working on Chinese.
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