BOSTON IBM (IBM.N) is not ready to guarantee that its computer programs are compatible with Oracle Corp.'s ORCL.O recently launched version of the Linux operating system, an IBM spokesman said on Friday.
This means that if IBM software programs turn out to be incompatible with Oracle Enterprise Linux, then it will be up to Oracle -- and not IBM -- to resolve the issue, said IBM spokesman Matthew McMahon.
Oracle, which started selling Linux in October, has said its product is identical to one from Red Hat Inc. (RHT.N), the No. 1 vendor of the popular open-source operating system, and will seamlessly run software written for the Red Hat system.
But financial and industry analysts have said that software buyers want outside assurances to back up that claim before they will switch to Oracle.
IBM may one day support Oracle Linux. "We are going to wait and see if there is traction in the marketplace," McMahon said. "If clients want it (Oracle), then we will support it."
IBM guarantees its products will work with Red Hat's version of Linux.
"What Red Hat is selling to the customer is peace of mind. Oracle cannot do that because it is unable to certify comparability," said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research.
Red Hat provides such a guarantee in the form of certifications from the makers of some 2,755 business software packages, which say that their products are completely compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined to say if any software makers have certified that their products are compatible with Oracle Enterprise Linux.
She wouldn't say how Oracle would respond if its Linux customers were to have problems using other software programs on the operating system.
Linux is an operating system, or the basic group of software programs that run any computer. Other software that is loaded onto that computer must be compatible with that operating system for it to work properly.
Analysts say the compatibility certifications from other software makers rank among Red Hat's key selling points.
The certifications from IBM are important because it sells widely used programs that companies use to run large computer networks. Those titles include the DB2 database, Tivoli software for managing computer networks and Websphere middleware.
Oracle has declined to say how many customers have purchased its new Linux product since its launch in October, and it has yet to announce any customer wins.
Red Hat said it added more than 12,000 customers in its third fiscal quarter, but it does not disclose its total number of customers.