COMDEX: Corel launches desktop Linux

Corel has underscored the 'for the people' aspect of Linux by launching Corel Linux OS on the Comdex showfloor, rather than at a press conference that would be closed to the public.

Corel has underscored the "for the people" aspect of the Linux operating system by launching Corel Linux OS at the Corel booth at Comdex , rather than at a press conference that would be closed to the public.

Linux is an open OS that has made inroads in the server market but has lagged on the desktop.

"DOS had ten years, Windows has had the last ten years and now it's time for Linux," said Michael Cowpland, president and chief executive officer of Corel.

Three versions of Corel Linux OS were announced, including a free version that can be downloaded at http://www.corel.com, according to Corel. The other versions, available at the end of the month, are a $US49 standard edition, which includes a light version of WordPerfect and 30 days of e-mail support, and the $79 to $89 deluxe edition, which will have full-featured WordPerfect, back-up software and 30 days of e-mail and phone support, according to Corel. The company plans to release an international English version, followed shortly by French and German versions, all by the end of February, officials said.

Corel officials stressed both the ease-of-use of the Corel Linux OS and the forthcoming applications

that will run on it. Linux's reputation as difficult to use, and the lack of applications available for it, have hampered its success in some quarters.

"Today, Corel Linux is as easy to use as Windows," Cowpland said, noting that Corel's booth features six applications running on Linux.

Those applications include WordPerfect 8, which shipped last December; QuattroPro, Corel's spreadsheet; its Paradox database; and Presentations, its slide-show application, according to Corel. WordPerfect, QuattroPro, Paradox and Presentations for Linux will be available as an office suite in the second quarter, Corel said. The CorelDraw suite for Linux, which includes the CorelDraw drawing software and Photomap, the company's bitmap editing tool, will be available in the third quarter, the company said.

The arrival of desktop applications is key to computer systems administrator Paul Stoecker's interest in Corel Linux. Stoecker works for Panasonic Technologies Inc. and supports highly technical users as well as others who simply need a word processor and spreadsheet. "We have a lot of normal business users, in addition to researchers," Stoecker said. Stoecker's users are running Solaris, Windows NT and Windows, but the arrival of the Corel Linux OS and related applications may change that equation, he said.

Other users singled out Linux's openness as its main attraction.

"We do a lot of our own custom programming, so having open systems ... is really convenient," said Thomas Gearhart, chief executive officer of Gearhart Associates, a 35-employee accounting firm in Colorado.

Gearhart currently uses SCO Unix, but plans to replace it with Corel Linux. "Most of the Linux stuff is more capable than SCO," he said.

Another user said he was drawn by Linux's reliability, given the many crashes he experiences with Windows NT.

"I have to reboot at least two times a week," said Dennis Bagley, who handles business management services for a tax preparation company in Sparks, Nevada. "We'd eventually like to replace Windows."

The growth opportunity for Linux is significant, according to market researcher International Data Corp. The Linux operating environment, both client and server, is expected to achieve a 25% compound annual growth rate through 2003, according to Dan Kusnetzky, a program director at IDC. That will include, on the server side, Linux's securing the number-two spot, behind NT but ahead of NetWare and Unix, Kusnetzky said.

Corel, based on Ottawa, can be reached at +1-613-788-6000 or on the Web at http://www.corel.com/.

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