Groups form Linux Foundation 

A major new nonprofit organization will be formed next month to promote the interests of Linux, the PC-based competitor of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows operating system, the group announced this week.

The Linux Foundation merges San Francisco’s Free Standards Group and Open Source Development Labs of Beaverton, Ore. Linux, an operating system for computers that is developed by a large network of open-source programmers and available for free, is widely used by businesses, technology workers and some computer-minded consumers. Customer support for the system is sold by Red Hat Inc. (RHT) of North Carolina and Novell Inc. (NOVL) of Massachusetts.

The new organization seeks to increase the use of Linux through several means and enable more aggressive competition with Windows.

"The two organizations were started six years ago … to promote Linux as something that can be used as mainstream computing. Linux is today a multibillion-dollar industry. Google, for example, runs on Linux," Executive Director Jim Zemlin said.

The group will help programmers create more computer programs that run on the system, a necessity if itis ever to be adopted by a broader range of consumers as a regular desktop system. Linux already has word-processing, photo editing and other programs developed for it, but not enough to create a shelf of Linux products at computer stores, Zemlin said.

The group also funds Linux inventor Linus Torvalds and other developers so they do not have to work for corporations, which might want to limit the free nature of the system.

The group manages the Linux trademark for Torvalds, provides developers with legal protection through a defense fund and offers standardization so developers find working on computer programs attractive, Zemlin said. It further encourages collaboration among interested technologists and promotes the system to industry and the media.

The group employs 45 people, including full-time workers and contract staff. It is headquartered in Oregon but will maintain offices in San Francisco and Japan.

Zemlin, its leader, is the former executive director of the Free Standards Group and will remain in The City. Its eight founding "platinum" members, who have representatives on the board of directors and who are charged $500,000 for their memberships, are the corporations Fujitsu Business Systems (FBSEF), Hitachi Ltd. (HIT), HP (HPQ), IBM (IBM), Intel Corp. (INTC), NEC Corp. (NIPNY), Novell and Oracle Corp. (ORCL).

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