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LinuxPPC gets its first office suite

January 9, 1999
Web posted at: 9:33 a.m. EST (1433 GMT)

by James Niccolai

(IDG) -- SAN FRANCISCO LinuxPPC will announce next week that Applix has developed a version of its Applixware Office software suite that runs on the LinuxPPC operating system, officials from both companies said this week.

Based on Red Hat Software's Red Hat 5.0, LinuxPPC is a version of the popular Linux open-source operating system designed to run on PowerPC processors. Its use currently is restricted mostly to a band of computer enthusiasts, but the availability of an office suite for the platform could help open the door to wider use, said Jason Haas, Linux PPC's marketing director.

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LinuxPPC runs "natively" on PowerPC computers rather than relying on the Mach microkernel as other versions of Linux for PowerPC, such as MkLinux, do. As a result, LinuxPPC is about 20 percent faster than microkernel-based offerings, according to Haas.

Applixware Office is sold mostly to businesses that use workstations running proprietary Unix versions like Sun Microsystems' Solaris and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX. Two years ago, Applix "got religion" and decided to port its office suite to open-source operating systems, said Steve Miller, director of sales at Applix.

Miller sees the Linux market as "a big fat niche," which he expects will grow significantly in the next couple of years, spurred on by the momentum gathering behind open-source software. Applixware, which includes mail, spreadsheet and word processing applications, is already available for machines that run Linux and are based either on Intel or Alpha chips.

Sales to Linux customers represent 5 to 10 percent of Applix's current business, but Miller thinks that figure could rise to 25 percent in the next 18 to 24 months, he said.

LinuxPPC's booth at Macworld here this week was crawling with users on Tuesday. One of them said the OS has "come a long way" in the past year in terms of its speed and stability.

"It crashes less often than the Mac OS does," said Nathan Sheeley, a PowerPC verification engineer for Motorola. Sheeley uses the operating system at home because it gives him "something to hack with."

LinuxPPC plans to release version 5.0 of its OS in about three weeks, Haas said.

"In terms of the technology, Release 5.0 should put LinuxPPC on par with the Intel Linux platform," Haas said. PowerPC versions of Linux typically lag behind Linux on Intel in terms of features and performance.

LinuxPPC bundled with Applix's office suite will be available Jan. 12, priced at $129, Haas said.

LinuxPPC sells its operating system separately on CD-ROM priced at $32, and will ship it anywhere in the world for an extra $6, he said. Users can also download LinuxPPC for free from the company's Web site, but it takes a long time without a high-speed connection, Haas said.

The company sold about 20,000 CD-ROM's last year, and about 300,000 more users downloaded the OS, according to Haas.

The operating system runs on most PowerPC computers, including Apple's Power Macintosh, iMac and PowerBook. It also runs on a variety of IBM and Motorola RS/6000, CHRP and PReP computers.

James Niccolai writes for the IDG News Service.

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