updated 9/13/2004 2:45:01 PM ET 2004-09-13T18:45:01

Seeking to be more competitive with Microsoft Corp., Linux backers have agreed on a standard version of the operating system so that programs written for one Linux distribution will work with others.

The agreement, organized by the nonprofit Free Standards Group, is meant to prevent the open source operating system from splitting into several conflicting distributions. That happened years ago with the Unix operating system, with several companies offering different, incompatible variations.

"Without this, we are no better than the proprietary Unix systems of old," said Jon Hall, executive director of Linux International, another nonprofit Linux organization.

The so-called Linux Standard Base 2.0 is expected to be officially announced Tuesday by the San Francisco-based Free Standards Group.

The standard is supported by most major Linux vendors, including Red Hat Inc., Novell Inc., China's Red Flag and Turbolinux. Pledges of support also came from chip-makers Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. as well as Hewlett Packard Co., Dell Inc. and IBM Corp.

Microsoft Corp., which sells the world's dominant Windows operating system, has run ads in Europe that suggest Linux users will face confusion and headaches should Linux split into incompatible versions. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The ads show the Linux penguin mascot with frog feet and elephant trunks.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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