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September 4, 2002


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UnitedLinux, a Divisive Weapon for Caldera's Darl McBride -- Part I

By Mike Angelo -- 4 September 2002 (C) -- Page 3

Article Index

Part I.

Part II.

LSB and UnitedLinux

The Linux Standard Base (LSB) Project has the overwhelming support of a very broad base of Linux distribution developers, Linux software developers, Linux OEMs, ISVs, and VARs -- and pretty much the entire Linux community -- or at least the people and organizations in the Linux community that know what LSB is and what it means for the continued success of Linux and its further growth.

Gaël Duval put it well:

MozillaQuest Magazine: Why do you feel it is important for Mandrake Linux to be LSB compliant?

Gaël Duval: "It's not only Mandrake; I think it's important for all the biggest Linux distributors to provide LSB-compliant products. Then it makes life easier for software publishers and users - and it finally gives more power to Linux to dominate the market and go mainstream."

Mark de Visser, Marketing Vice-President at Red Hat, weighed in on the importance of the LSB too.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Do you think LSB is important? Why?"

Mark de Visser: It is. It keeps Linux from splintering like UNIX did and allows independent software vendors (ISVs) to support multiple distributions without too much incremental effort. That translates into a benefit for customers, as they will always have choice.

Holger Dyroff is head of SuSE Inc., SuSE Linux AG 's United States operation and the SuSE General Manager for the Americas. We also had the pleasure of discussing LSB, UnitedLinux, and McBride's comments with him on the phone and by e-mail.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Does SuSE believe that it is important for SuSE Linux to be LSB compliant?

Holger Dyroff: Yes. We are a founding member of the Free Standards Group and our engineers were part of all definition efforts ...

Just about everyone in the Linux community pretty much agrees that LSB is a very good thing, and a very important thing, for Linux. Moreover, the top three Linux distribution providers, Mandrake, SuSE and Red Hat are rock-solid behind the LSB.

However, a few Linux distribution providers, now part of the UnitedLinux consortium, wanted to take the LSB standardization a step further. As the Free Standards Group (FSG) executive director Scott McNeil puts it, the LSB is more a behavioral standard than a technical standard. UnitedLinux builds upon the LSB specifications and gets into a more technically-based Linux-distribution standardization. The details are beyond the scope of this article.

Holger Dyroff: ". . . we agreed with several other founding members of LSB that LSB just doesn't go far enough. We saw the need to standardize further in order to make our customers in the enterprise happy. As we didn't have time to convince all others in the first place we did go ahead with four partners and announced UnitedLinux. This was the only way to get the effort done, fast."

As the Linux World stands now, only four companies have joined the UnitedLinux consortium -- Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE, and Turbolinux. However, SuSE along with Mandrake and Red Hat is one of the top three Linux distribution providers. So, only one of the top three Linux distribution providers is part of the UnitedLinux consortium.

All three top Linux distribution providers are part of the Linux Standard Base project. Moreover, all top three Linux distribution providers (Mandrake, SuSE, and Red Hat) have achieved LSB certification for their current Linux distributions. Commendable achievements and exemplary leadership by some fine, Linux community, citizens.

Of course that would not be all that remarkable had it not been for Caldera's Darl McBride pitting his UnitedLinux consortium against Mandrake and Red Hat, both good Linux community citizens, in a fight over the existing Linux market-base. Actually, McBride has pitted UnitedLinux against all the other Linux distributions when you think about it. McBride has unilaterally divided the Linux World into UnitedLinux and Red Hat -- and then the Hell with everyone else. So, McBride's San Francisco statements invoke a different set of ground rules for what is remarkable and what is not remarkable -- read that as, if you want to play hardball, the harder the balls come in the harder they get hit out if you like.

Meanwhile, so far Caldera, Conectiva, and Turbolinux (three of the four UnitedLinux consortium members) have failed to achieve LSB certification for their Linux distributions. Not much leadership there. Nothing commendable. Not very good Linux community citizenship either.

If you add all this together, it starts to sum up to SuSE being the big player in the UnitedLinux consortium and Caldera being a minor player. That arithmetic is bolstered by the fact that the development work on the UnitedLinux base is SuSE's and not Caldera's.

Holger Dyroff, General Manager of SuSE's American operations recently told MozillaQuest Magazine: SuSE Linux is the technical integrator for UnitedLinux, which includes project management and core development.

There are different ways to measure big. If you look at sales volume and number of employees, Caldera is bigger than SuSE. For its fiscal year ending October 2001, Caldera had 545 employees and sales of $40.4-million (including its SCO & UNIX revenues and employees). SuSE's fiscal year ended in December 2001 with 380 employees and sales amounting to $35.4-million. However, SuSE is all Linux. If the 2% for Caldera/SCO Linux sales holds for this data, then Caldera/SCO is doing less than $1-million in annual Linux sales.

Bigger is not always better. SuSE generated $93,158 in sales per employee for its fiscal year ending in December 2001. However, Caldera generated only $74,128 in sales per employee for its fiscal year ending October 2001.

Red Hat is bigger than either Caldera or SuSE in this arena. Red Hat's fiscal year ending February 2002 data shows 634 employees and sales of $78.9-million -- $124,448 in sales per employee.

If you like to measure big in terms of assets, Red Hat showed $373.6-million in total assets and $48.0-million in total liabilities for the quarter ending May 2002. In comparison, for the quarter ending April 2002 Caldera had only $48.7-million in total assets -- total liabilities were $31.3-million. Red Hat has about 7.7 times the total assets that Caldera has.

(Source of this financial data is Hoover's Online. Link in Resources section at end of this article.)

Summary for Part I

Today, in Part I of the McBride's divisive antics story, we have looked at McBride's inappropriate statements. These statements attack Red Hat. Moreover they at least slight, if not demean and insult, Mandrake and many other Linux distributions by ignoring them and by dividing the Linux World into merely McBride's UnitedLinux and Red Hat only.

Additionally, McBride makes market share statements that he fails to back up with data -- and all the data we looked at refute McBride's statements clearly and decisively.

In Part II, we look further into McBride's inflammatory and divisive statements. Part I captures the reactions of Mandrake's Gaël Duval. Part II adds the responses of Red Hat's Mark de Visser to those of Gaël Duval and has even more of Gaël Duval's reactions to McBride's inappropriate statements.

Perhaps the most important of those responses is that UnitedLinux is not a Linux standard, but rather just another Linux Distribution. Part II also has statements from one of the UnitedLinux consortium members that say in essence that Darl McBride does not speak for that UnitedLinux member or for UnitedLinux.

Something that became clear to us during the several weeks of legwork for this story and in writing the story is that Darl McBride and his Caldera/SCO outfit have a definite conflict of interest when presuming to speak on behalf of UnitedLinux and/or the Linux community. Revenues-wise, Caldera/SCO is only 2% a Linux distribution provider. Caldera/SCO is pretty much a UNIX company.

Therefore it is McBride's and Caldera/SCO's best interests to divide the Linux community and to set the real Linux companies at each others throats. Doing that would work towards destroying the Linux community's attention and focus on going after potential customers that currently are UNIX (pronounced Caldera/SCO here) customers.

There is nothing wrong in a company protecting its own turf (instantly Caldera/SCO's UNIX customer base) by good, solid, honest competition. However, pretending to be advancing the interests of Linux and the Linux community by trying to split that Linux community by hiding behind what has been made to look like a standardization initiative (UnitedLinux) in order to protect that UNIX customer base is appalling.

If you have not already come to that conclusion too, please make sure you read Part II. There is a good chance that after reading Part II, you will understand why we have reached our conclusions about McBride and Caldera/SCO -- and perhaps reach the same conclusions yourself.

Stay tuned!

LSB Mission Statement

The goal of the Linux Standard Base (LSB) is to develop and promote a set of standards that will increase compatibility among Linux distributions and enable software applications to run on any compliant Linux system. In addition, the LSB will help coordinate efforts to recruit software vendors to port and write products for Linux.


What is UnitedLinux?

UnitedLinux is a standards-based, worldwide Linux solution targeted at the business user and developed by Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE, and Turbolinux. Designed to be an enterprise-class, industry-standard Linux operating system, UL provides a single stable, uniform platform for application development, certification, and deployment and allows Linux vendors, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), and Independent Hardware Vendors (IHVs) to support a single high value Linux offering rather than many different versions.

(UnitedLinux FAQs)

Linux Standard Base Project

Linux Standard Base Certified Distributions

Copyright 2000 - 2002 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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