Linux Standard Base Takes on the Desktop

Adobe and Intel join traditional Linux supporters and the Linux Standards Base group to work on Linux desktop standards.

The Free Standards Group and its Linux Standard Base work group Tuesday announced the formation of the Linux Standard Base Desktop Project, with the support of Adobe Systems Inc., Intel Corp., IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Linspire Inc., Mandriva SA, Novell Inc., RealNetworks Inc., Red Hat Inc., Trolltech, Xandros Inc. and others.

The LSB (Linux Standard Base) Desktop Projects goal is to standardize common libraries and application behavior so as to make it easier for ISVs to write Linux desktop programs.

The long-term goal is to help the Linux desktop achieve wide-spread adoption.

In the past, Linux ISVs, while not anywhere near as constrained as they have been in writing applications for Unix, have still faced complex and costly development and support issues. This, in turn, according to Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Free Standards Group, has lead to many ISVs choosing not to develop for Linux.

In addition to long-time Linux supporter ISVs such as Trolltech and hardware vendors like HP and IBM, the LSB Desktop Project is also being supported by companies that have not been well known for Linux support, such as Adobe, Intel and RealNetworks.

All these businesses are donating time and resources towards the goal of standardizing common libraries and application behavior so as to make it easier for developers to target the Linux desktop.

This is not just lip-service support, according to Zemlin.

"The LSB Desktop is well-funded. Were not only getting time from individual members of the open-source community, vendors are providing the financial resources needed to make and prove out the standards," Zemlin said. The work group is also inviting all interested parties to participate in the project.

The companies will be working to create a common application runtime and to standardize install time requirements for key Linux distributions. This will mean that core pieces of the Linux desktop, including libraries and non-binary application behaviors, will be standardized for both Linux distributors and ISVs.

Zemlin said the group will be "dealing with all issues concerning interoperability."

According to Stacey Quandt, an Aberdeen Group Inc. research director, "the idea is to make the LSB more appealing to ISVs that are writing GUI applications. The LSB subcommittee will be looking into adding the necessary libraries for desktop applications, i.e., the next step beyond the base X libraries. This will likely mean both GNOME and KDE/QT."

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"Right now the only thing in the LSB is the base X libraries," Quandt said. "This means applications using GNOME or KDE libraries can only be LSB-compliant by static linking, which makes them huge, and in some cases GNOME/KDE libraries dont support static linking because they want to dynamically load them for various reasons."

The new LSB desktop group will be dealing with more than just KDE and GNOME issues though. It will be dealing with "all issues dealing with interoperability," Zemlin said. With "everyone at the table, and motivated to make the Linux desktop a success, everyone will be seeking a consensus. This may not [mean] making developers choose between KDE and GNOME, but instead finding a way to make it easier for ISVs to create applications that can easily work with both."

In short, he said, "the timing is right for the Linux desktop."

As an example, Zemlin pointed to Adobe. "Adobe is large, forward-looking company, which is now putting a strategic bet on Linux. They wouldnt be doing this if they werent serious about Linux."

Adobe agreed. "This effort to standardize the components that make up the Linux desktop will go a long way in making support for multiple Linux distributions possible for ISVs like Adobe," said Patrice Lagrange, Adobes director of Linux strategy and market development.

Next Page: Building on a standards base.