Turbolinux Challenged in Tough Linux Market

By Tom Krazit, ITworld |  How-to

An effort aimed at publishing a Linux version that runs software
programs from four different distributors of the open-source operating
system could be in peril as Turbolinux Inc. struggles to stay afloat.
But even if the company manages to stave off layoffs and office
closings, an unfocused business model has the company headed in an
uncertain direction that could kick off consolidation of the Linux
distribution market, analysts say.

The future of Turbolinux looked bright after the Brisbane, California,
company joined with three other Linux distribution companies earlier
this year to create UnitedLinux, a joint effort whose ultimate aim was
to make the operating system more viable in the corporate market.
However, reports surfaced this week that cloud at least the company's
immediate future as word circulated on the Internet that Turbolinux had
shuttered its headquarters.

The president and chief executive officer of Turbolinux, Ly-thong Pham,
issued a statement to Linux Today, an industry publication, that while
the U.S. office is being restructured, the company remains open for
business and will provide more details on restructuring plans next
month.

Representatives from the U.S. office of Turbolinux did not respond to
repeated requests for comment. The Japanese branch office was told that
an expected round of funding from investors had not come through, and
the company was "forced to conduct (an) urgent restructuring on July
15," said Fumiko Doi, marketing director of Turbolinux Japan. These
layoffs caused the shutdown rumors, but they only affected the U.S.
office, and do not mean the company as a whole is in danger of failing,
she said.

The very nature of Turbolinux' business is cause for concern, said
analysts.

The source code for open-source software, such as Turbolinux's
distribution, can be viewed and modified by anyone under the terms of
the GPL (General Public License). So, if another company coveted a
feature of Turbolinux's distribution, it could merely view the source
code, and create its own distribution based on the same code, said
George Weiss, vice president and research director for enterprise
servers and storage at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Connecticut.

"This is the strength and weakness of the open-source model: (the
technology) is there, and it's not dependant on any one body, but it
lowers the overall profit potential that vendors would like," said
Weiss.

Turbolinux had tried to differentiate itself as a Linux distributor to
Asian countries. The company has offices in Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong,
Taipei, and Seoul, and made versions of Linux optimized for Asian
languages.

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