Caldera International, Turbolinux, SuSE and Conectiva will jointly develop the distribution called UnitedLinux and sell it, by the end of the year, under their own brand names.
The group--also called UnitedLinux--hopes to speed further business adoption of Linux by releasing a single version that will be supported by all. The companies will fund joint research and development.
Red Hat, which now sells about 50 percent of Linux software, has launched its own alliance with various other software and hardware companies.
Ransom Love, CEO of Caldera, says Red Hat and other major distributors have been invited to join. A spokesman for Red Hat did not immediately returns calls Thursday.
In a survey of 800 companies in North America and Western Europe, about 40 percent said they are either using or testing Linux in their organizations, according to the research firm IDC.
Though individual companies charge for the operating system, tech support and services, versions can be downloaded legally for free on the Internet. Many companies and governments have turned to Linux as a low-cost alternative to Microsoft's Windows operating systems.
"You can't help but compete against Microsoft," Love says. "When someone is trying to be all things to all people, you can't help but bump into them... I think this does provide a feasible business alternative."
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