Several of the world's biggest computing companies will contribute millions of dollars each to an Oregon lab to spur development of applications using the Linux free operating system on large computers. IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Intel are among the main sponsors of the initiative. IBM and Hewlett-Packard are among the many companies with internal Linux projects, and the big computer firms have also invested in for-profit Linux companies. The firms and others recently endorsed a separate venture to support development of a user-friendly graphic interface for Linux, which has been gaining ground on Microsoft's Windows and other proprietary operating systems. The new Open Source Development Lab, to be based near Portland, will also get funding from NEC, Dell, Red Hat, VA Linux and others. "This is the first time where there's been a special nonprofit [Linux group] and a physical location in a lab," said Hewlett-Packard Linux executive Mike Balma. Open-source advocate Brian Behlendorf, a co-founder of the group backing the popular free Web server software Apache, said the access to high-end hardware would boost Linux efforts. The lab is expected to be open by the end of the year.