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SuSE describes strains in UnitedLinux effort resulting from SCO fight

The four-partner effort to create an enterprise-ready version of Linux is likely to change

By Todd R. Weiss
August 8, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- Amid the Linux vendors and users at this week's LinuxWorld Conference & Expo here, Linux vendor UnitedLinux Inc. was noticeably absent.
UnitedLinux, in Wakefield, Mass., didn't have a booth at the show, nor did it have a presence as a partner in any of the other vendor booths.
That four-partner effort to create a standardized, enterprise-ready version of the Linux operating system for business computing, has been strained since March, when one of the UnitedLinux partners -- The SCO Group Inc. in Lindon, Utah -- filed a lawsuit against IBM seeking damages of more than $3 billion for allegedly contributing some of SCO's Unix intellectual property to Linux. The other UnitedLinux partners are SuSE Linux AG in Nuremberg, Germany, Conectiva SA in Brazil and Turbolinux Inc. in Tokyo.
In an interview here, Richard Seibt, CEO of SuSE, acknowledged the absence of UnitedLinux at the show and said that since SCO filed its lawsuit, an "uncomfortable situation" has developed between the two companies. "I have made it clear that we are re-evaluating our relationship with SCO," he said.
SuSE Linux is the major partner in UnitedLinux.
No decisions have yet been made on the future of SuSE and UnitedLinux, he said, but given the SCO lawsuit against IBM, changes to the current partnership and marketing model are likely. "I would say UnitedLinux will exist and will continue to exist as long as ... customers use it," Seibt said.
In the meantime, development work has stopped on the first version of UnitedLinux, which debuted late last year. "We will continue to support our current product line," he said.
The next version of UnitedLinux could be labeled "Powered by SuSE Linux," instead of the "Powered by UnitedLinux" tag that's now used by each of the partners, Seibt said. "It's a natural progression that the next version of UnitedLinux is [renamed as] SuSE Linux."
SuSE and SCO do still discuss issues related to customers and UnitedLinux, but they are "short conversations," Seibt said. "It is certainly not something that we wanted them to do," he said of the lawsuit against IBM.
For UnitedLinux customers, the strained relationship shouldn't be an issue, he said, since support and service are still being provided for the operating system. Under the arrangement when UnitedLinux was announced in May 2002 (see story), the four vendors contributed to the creation of UnitedLinux and then sold the standardized, enterprise operating system under their own labels.
Ironically, SCO was the first of the four partners to get its UnitedLinux offering into the marketplace last November for sale to customers (see story). Four months later, SCO sued IBM and stopped selling its Linux offerings.
Paula Hunter, the executive director of UnitedLinux, said today that the partnership didn't have a visible presence at the show because "we don't want to compete with our member companies." UnitedLinux did sponsor a developer event at LinuxWorld in New York in January, and the UnitedLinux banner was present in several partner booths at the show, Hunter said. For this week's show, however, "we did not have a program that we were launching."
According to Hunter, who attended the show and met with vendors and customers, Seibt's views on the future of UnitedLinux are only his opinions. Any changes to the current arrangement would have to be agreed on by the partners, she said.




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