Red Hat has posted the first release of a new Linux distribution it hopes will become a community-driven test bed for software that may one day make it into its commercial Red Hat Enterprise Linux software. Called Fedora Core 1, the software was posted to the Web site on Wednesday.

"This is a community-led project that is supported by Red Hat. The goal is to accelerate the development of open source technology," said John Young, Red Hat's vice president of marketing.

Red Hat created the Fedora project to give open source developers a place to experiment with software that is more cutting edge and more frequently released than the software in Red Hat's commercial products, Young said. "This is where we think the most advanced technology will be. Not necessarily the most proven Linux technology, but the most advanced."

With the release of Fedora Core, Red Hat is now developing two distinct Linux distributions: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which comes with a variety of technical support options, and the unsupported Fedora software.

The two distributions will have other differences. Fedora software releases will happen every four to six months, which is much more frequently than the 12 to 15 months between Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases, and Fedora will not undergo the rigorous testing or application certification process that is done for Enterprise Linux.

Red Hat sees Fedora more as a free-wheeling test bed for new ideas in software development than as a competitor to Red Hat's commercial offerings. "The Fedora project is going to focus on rapid technology development and is not going to focus on the needs of enterprises," Young said.

Red Hat hopes Fedora eventually will host a wide variety of open source projects under its umbrella, Young said.

Though Red Hat hopes Fedora software may someday make its way into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the company is not looking to make a profit from Fedora, Young said. "Some folks are going to choose this over our other products. If we were really going to get every last nickel, we wouldn't do this," he said.

However, one open source advocate was sceptical of Red Hat's motivation. "The open source community is supposed to produce Fedora so Red Hat can put a stamp on it and charge lots of money for it," said Bruce Perens, a co-founder of the Open Source Initiative and well-known Linux advocate.

The next version of Fedora Core, expected within six months, will be based on the Linux 2.6 kernel, Red Hat said.