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Updated Linux distributors including Caldera, SuSE and TurboLinux are expected to join forces tomorrow to unite on a common distribution. The news was scooped by eWeek's Peter Galli, under the headline Linux vendors gang up on Red Hat, which gets to the point pretty well.

Galli was told that the alliance hinges on a common distro. Whether this involves more than just joint marketing agreements, or extends as far as a new Computer Associates-style umbrella operation, we'll have to wait and see.

Having decided that it's better to hang together than hang seperately, the distros are silent, for now:

"You can make guesses, and they'll be probably right," a spokesman for one of the distros told us this morning.

Apart from Red Hat, which bought a strong tools and embedded business, and has the lion's share of the commercial market, it's difficult to see who's making money off Linux right now, apart from IBM. The four distros officially named in tomorrow's conference calls - other "partners" are mentioned, too have geographical strengths: TurboLinux in China and APAC, Conectiva in South America, and SuSE in Europe.

After the glory days of three years ago, all the major Linux distributors have been diversifying, or cutting back their global ambitions. For example, Caldera has been broadening its appeal with its Volution Manager software, which come fall, will manage commercial Unices (HP-UX, Solaris) and Windows servers too, while SuSE and TurboLinux have focussed on their strongest business regions.

The progress made by the Free Standards Group in establishing the Linux Standards Base (LSB) and internationalization guidelines (li18nux) - the work is blessed by IBM, HPaq and Dell, and most importantly of all, by Hemos - should make a unified Not-RedHat ("RedNot"?) distribution easier to manage.

"Anything that strengthens standardization is good," Daniel Morales, Mandrakesoft's Americas VP, told us. Mandrake isn't part of the alliance, he confirmed.

"Between us and Red Hat we have 55 per cent market share. If you look at the members SuSE has good market share, but TurboLinux and Caldera have tiny share. And Conectiva isn't known outside Brazil," he added.

Consolidation means that less duplication between overlapping technical and marketing resources: a Good Thing. It also means that there will be far fewer people to take The Register for lunch: a Bad Thing. ®

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