Pundit: Linux independence needs guarding

Linux is endangered by the popularity of the businesses formed to sell and service it, he said. Red Hat, Caldera Systems, TurboLinux, and other Linux vendors can potentially stifle its development by packaging a single standard for the OS, he said.

"The problem is it's their standardisation," said Petreley, a contributing editor to InfoWorld, founding editor of LinuxWorld, and a Linux evangelist for Caldera Systems.

"The distribution model is to sell the latest version [of the OS]," he said. "They crank out updates, and it's easy to do because Linux innovates so fast."

But the distributors threaten to create their own standard by the power of their sales channels. "There are so many updates that I don't know what's happening with my system," Petreley said.

The Linux Standards Base, a group formed two years ago to set standards to encourage compatibility among different Linux versions, has moved too slowly, Petreley said.

"The Linux Standards Base is not proactive about defining standards and moving Linux forward, so it doesn't solve the Linux problem," he said.

Nonetheless, market forces are moving to encourage continued development of Linux specifications, he said.

The Open Source Development Labs, formed in August by a consortium of businesses, including Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, as well as Linux vendors, will create nonprofit laboratories to fund Linux projects from the development community.

Support for Linux from industry giants such as Intel should help guarantee compatible Linux development, he said.

"I'd like to see enough people like Intel adopting Linux in a big way for what [benefit] it can do for them, and because it will level the playing field so open standards can be adopted," Petreley said.