Two groups committed to the adoption of the Linux operating system announced that they will merge on Tuesday, streamlining operations to standardize Linux and give it a stronger presence in the battle with Microsoft Windows.

The Open Source Development Labs will combine with the Free Standards Group to form The Linux Foundation. With both groups united, the Linux community hopes it can consolidate its resources and compete with rival Microsoft in the operating system space more effectively.

Computing is entering a world dominated by two platforms: Linux and Windows, explains Jim Zemlin, executive director of the new group.

While being managed under one roof has given Windows some consistency, Linux offers freedom of choice, customization and flexibility without forcing customers into vendor lock-in, he said. The Linux Foundation helps in the next stage of Linux growth by organizing the diverse companies and constituencies of the Linux ecosystem to promote, protect, and standardize Linux.

The group will ensure that the common core of various Linux versions will evolve according to an agreed upon standard, allowing developers to make software that will run across the Linux spectrum. The foundation will also launch the Linux Developer Network, which will provide information and specifications on the services and interfaces that work with Linux.

Key backers of The Linux Foundation include Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Novell, and Oracle. The group will have 70 vendor sponsors in all. Other members include Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC.

If members of both groups ratify the merger, it is expected to be completed in February.