February 3, 2003 8:35 PM PST

Advocates join to promote desktop Linux

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Several companies have joined to launch a consortium to promote Linux for desktop computers, a significant expansion for an operating system that today fits more comfortably on servers.

The consortium's goal will be to raise awareness of desktop Linux and to speed its adoption, the organization plans to announce Tuesday.

Companies behind the Desktop Linux Consortium include several Linux sellers such as SuSE, MandrakeSoft, Lycoris, Xandros and ArkLinux; CodeWeavers, which sells software to help run Windows programs on Linux systems; OpenOffice, an open-source competitor to Microsoft Office; and the KDE user interface software.

Participants say the new consortium is in part a reaction to the behavior of one company not on the consortium's membership list: Lindows. Several of the desktop Linux companies withdrew from a Lindows-organized conference, accusing Lindows Chief Executive Michael Robertson of using the forum too much to promote his own company's wares.

Hewlett-Packard and Lycoris were among those that withdrew from the conference. "The recent changes to the conference schedule, the withdrawal of Hewlett-Packard, and conference management have given a single vendor too much focus, which is no longer in the interest of Lycoris," the company said in a statement.

Bruce Perens, an open-source advocate who withdrew from the conference, will lead the consortium at its outset.

Most agree that Linux is too technical for average desktop computer users, but efforts are under way to improve it. SuSE and Red Hat are aiming Linux for developers and for employees using computers for limited functions, such as entering information onto a back-end system or fielding calls from customers placing orders by phone calls.

In addition, Sun Microsystems, which has no relationship selling PCs with Microsoft Windows, also has gotten into the game with its project Mad Hatter and with server software geared to make Linux PCs more useful.

All these efforts have been accelerated by resistance to new Microsoft licensing programs, which effectively raised the prices for some products.

The new consortium will be a non-profit organization funded by annual dues. It will be open to companies and to open-source organizations, and additional members are expected to be announced soon, the group said.


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