by Anonymous Coward
From the description of UnitedLinux it seems to me that it is simply a commercialized LSB. How is what you are offering different from the LSB project?
LSB is a specification and does not describe a complete distribution. UnitedLinux is combining the efforts of four major Linux providers around the world to create a common, best of breed server implementation (full Linux Server distribution). It will be a full implementation of the LSB standard, but it will go beyond and include components not currently defined in LSB.
LSB does not attempt to solve the business model around Linux. UnitedLinux is not only providing packaged bits and bytes of a distribution, but also giving developers a global infrastructure of support in local languages and channels to sell their products on a global basis. UnitedLinux solves nearly all of the impediments facing the commercialization of Linux, such as market fragmentation, the availability of applications (by simplifying certification of hardware and software solutions), and a valid business model for Linux (Supportable business quality product through limited binary distribution and 12 month maintenance agreement with every license sold).
2) What will you give back to the community?
In a completely selfish vein, what will you give back to the community? Caldera doesn't have the greatest track record (I can think of a few specific cases but I'll omit them here for brevity) for providing some return to those people who have coded the _VAST_ majority of Linux, GNU, and everything else. Aside from, of course, providing jobs for developers.
I am a little frustrated by this question as it implies that somehow Caldera or any other Linux company is making millions of dollars off of Linux. Every Linux provider has spent far more on promoting Linux than they have ever received. Not even Red Hat is profitable and a lot of their revenues are generated from non-Linux technologies. Millions of dollars have been spent in recruiting applications, advertising, and tradeshows to promote Linux, not to mention the millions spent in employing engineers as well as the innovations that have been given back to the community. The actual development cost of producing a product is only about 20-30%; marketing, sales and support constitute the majority.
I am also troubled by your impression that Caldera's contributions to the community have been scarce. Caldera architected and paid Red Hat to enhance the original RPM. We were the first to address a graphical desktop; the first to provide a graphical installer; the first to provide a management system. I could go on and on. All of these innovations were given back to the community. You can see a more detailed list at www.caldera.com/developers/community/contrib/.
Please don't get me wrong - I firmly believe that what is produced by the community is vitally important. But it is not what creates a product or a solution that businesses have to deploy. Caldera has been a company for profit. Profit enables continued investment in Linux. UnitedLinux is for profit so that there is money that can continue to be invested in Linux itself. I do not believe in a Linux model that requires ongoing charity to survive.
That said, Caldera and all the UnitedLinux partners will continue to provide all of the changes and enhancements that are made back to the community. I believe that all of the participants have a very good track record of so doing. In addition to providing the source back, UnitedLinux will offer development programs that will provide continued access and updates for the serious developer.
3) Source and binary distributions
There has been some confusion on your statement in the UL teleconference to the effect that while source code would be available to meet the requirements of the GPL, "binaries would not be freely available." Could you clarify what that means? Is it possible that UL will distribute only source, or only distribute source and binaries to it's member companies? (Who will then be responsible for making sure they meet the license requirements on software which is in their distributions?) Surely UL or it's members don't intend to distribute binaries compiled from GPL code and assert the recipient can't re-distribute them?
The binaries that are certified by the major ISVs and OEMs will not be made freely available for distribution by anyone. This is to limit the support liability for these companies and to ensure a high quality, consistent product around the world for support purposes. The UnitedLinux product produced is not just a binary, but 12-months of maintenance. That maintenance is for a single system and therefore has limited distribution. The source code for the server will be made freely available for all in compliance with all of the Open Source licenses.
There will be programs for developers who need access to the binaries and they will include options for ongoing updates and patches to ensure continued certification compliance. Our desire is to make UnitedLinux easily available for serious developers, and give them means to make the development process easier.
4) Commercial Development
It seems to me that a group like UnitedLinux could bring a lot of commercial development to the Linux platform. Are there any efforts to bring companies who have so far neglected developing for Linux due to support costs, like most hardware venders, into UnitedLinux?
Certainly. By enabling one certification for hardware and software and then facilitating a global distribution of the solution through established global channels with support in local languages around the world, UnitedLinux should increase the number of hardware and software participants supporting Linux.
5) Future of Linux
Where do you see the true future of Linux being? Will it remain mostly in the enterprise and web server market, or do you think that it will also make large gains in the desktop market? Also, to what end does the goals of UnitedLinux fit into your predictions for the future of Linux?
Linux has great potential in moving beyond the web server market into the mainstream of the application server market. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done, however, to allow Linux to be a dominant application server platform. The objectives of UnitedLinux are to take that first step: enable Linux to be used by mainstream businesses. Accordingly, the initial effort is focused at the server.
I also believe that web services will become the dominant method for outsourcing IT. As the Internet becomes the primary business platform and Internet client interfaces become dominant, Linux will continue to make inroads into the client. (Take, for example, the fact that we now spend more time in email than in an Office suite.)
Finally, one of the keys to desktop penetration of Linux is in ease of management and provisioning. Making Linux easy to configure, deploy, manage and interoperate with Microsoft alternatives will greatly enhance Linux's acceptance at the desktop. Clearly, several of the UnitedLinux companies are addressing these issues individually. UnitedLinux may address this after enabling Linux to be used as a mainstream application platform for business. Another key, of course, would be the number of applications with which end-users are familiar. With the current balance weighted towards Microsoft, the need is for new software that makes end users more comfortable with and consequently more accepting of Linux on the desktop.
6) Business Model...
Mr. Love, I'm curious as to how you'll make money from this? By not giving away binaries it seems as if your group is trying to sell Linux, and probably service and support with it. Now you appear to be in competition with Red Hat (on server) and Mandrake (on desktop) who both give their software away. Red Hat makes it's money from service contracts and Mandrake from special software for paying customers. I guess my question is how can you compete against them, when they are just as good and give it away for free or cheaper? What is the incentive you will give consumers to actually purchase your software as opposed to downloading isos from other companies?
It should be noted, first off, that Red Hat has moved to a model on advanced server where they are not giving away the binaries and they are charging around $800+ for their advanced server product.
Going forward, there will only be two platforms certified by the major hardware and software vendors, Red Hat and UnitedLinux. For Linux to move from the peripheral of the business network into mainstream application server market, businesses must be assured that their platform is certified and will work with other applications and hardware solution in their environment. What the UnitedLinux customer is paying for is 1) the assurance that his applications will work together, and 2) the ongoing maintenance and support of that certified platform. The restriction on binaries is to ensure product quality and consistency of the brand for hardware and software vendors and for the quality of support within the business organization. I believe that Red Hat is moving to a similar model with business customers. The majority of the value will be in product assurance and maintenance. Both of these are of tremendous value to the business customer.
As mentioned earlier, binaries will also be made available to developers, but they will be through programs that can keep them updated and in sync with all changes. More information on this will be forth coming.
Desktop derivatives will be made available by each of the respective Linux companies. Since they will not carry the UnitedLinux brand and do not need application certification, their binaries may be available based on the individual company's policies.
Will there be some form of initiative to work together on online documentation for both end users and developers? For instance making sure that there is up to date information on all applications and APIs in a common format (for example XML, that can be used to generate info, man pages, html, etc)? I personally don't think the distributions as a whole are well documented enough, and I think it would be one area where everybody would gain from co-operating.
We will be offering developer programs to address many of these needs and your suggestion here is a very good one. Clearly not having to duplicate efforts will allow us to create a much higher quality combined product and this is an important area to improve.
8) Who certifies compliance?
Who will certify compliance for each vendor provided distro, and who will pick up the pieces when (not if) an application appears that borks on one or more of the distros? If it's UnitedLinux, is each vendor prepared to pay to fix snafus committed by the others? If it's the individual vendors, what happens when one of them screws it up and wrecks confidence in UnitedLinux?
Every company will be shipping a common CD that will include a complete Linux distribution including installer and desktop. This is the UnitedLinux aspect of the distribution. All the additional value-add will be on separate CDs. Consequently, there will be a common quality check on the base components. The testing of the value-added components will be the responsibility of the individual companies.
Given the ongoing uncertainty over whether Red Hat's actions regarding patents will actually match its rhetoric, what is UnitedLinux's position on patents? Specifically which of the following will you do?
- Eschew patents altogether.
- Obtain your own patents.
- License, trade or buy outright patents from other companies.
- Oblige your members to hand over or license patents to UnitedLinux or to all other members.
- Match Red Hat's current stated intent and express a non-binding intention to stay enforcement for a given type of open source development as long as it is convenient for you to do so.
- Agree to explicitly license your patents at no cost, for a limited time or in perpetuity, to a given type of development (as sharply distinct from merely staying enforcement and leaving a Sword of Damocles dangling over developers' heads).
- Obtain and reserve the right to use patents freely against any target, as any other commercial software companies (e.g. Sun, Microsoft) would do.
The four companies have not discussed their position on patents. The official statement will have to be forth coming.
We live in a day when patents have not become a tool to protect, but a weapon to wield. Since the patent office lacks the technical expertise to discern between what is valid and what is clearly an attempt to blackmail, and because innovation continues at a rapid pace, this is a serious problem for our industry and one that will need to be addressed.
10) On the Relationship between Companies
How is the membership into the United Linux group going to work, and how much flexibility will there be? Can any distribution join? Are there significant costs to becoming a member? Can members set their own policies with regard to per-seat-licensing? In sum, how much freedom do the member companies have in how they market, contribute and license United Linux?
The membership will be open. Any Linux company will be able to join, but they will have to pay the fee to become a joint owner of the UnitedLinux LLC. That fee is to offset the cost of development and marketing the UnitedLinux product and brand and to have the upside potential of profits.
There is no per seat license for UnitedLinux. The restriction is per server and it is the 12-month maintenance fee for that system. Other companies can set their own pricing, but they are under obligation to deliver the same product and maintenance deliverable per system and will be responsible for the fees back to UnitedLinux. There may be several ways of participating with UnitedLinux. The details on membership and different options will be forth coming.