Upcoming Linux versions aim for Windows' ease of use
April 23, 1999
by David Orenstein
(IDG) -- Their shots may merely bounce off the walls of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows desktop stronghold. But Caldera Systems Inc. and Corel Corp. are taking dead aim at Redmond's operating-system dominance by emphasizing ease of use and office productivity in their next versions of Linux due later this year.
Users and analysts said that even if the versions fulfill their promise of making Linux — a free variant of Unix — as user-friendly as Windows, they could still take years to challenge Windows. But they praised the efforts as being essential to Linux's struggle to gain wider acceptance.
"This kind of excites me," said Tom Stoddard, a systems administrator in the avionics division at The BFGoodrich Co. in Grand Rapids, Mich. "[Ease of use] is the last frontier. They will start to pick up some users over and above the techies they are getting today."
Stoddard said other avionics department users have begun to ogle his Linux desktop because of its stability, but Linux applications would need to match the broad functionality of Microsoft Office before a switch to Linux would be feasible. Even Stoddard still does his expenses on Excel.
Users at McCall Pattern Co. in Manhattan, Kan., a maker of sewing patterns, wouldn't be able to run Linux desktops without assurance that they could flawlessly port applications built on Microsoft Office, said technical support manager Lynn Newman.
Few companies would run Linux alongside Windows, said George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. Companies won't save money or gain productivity with Linux if end users also need to license and run Windows for certain tasks.
To address those needs, Ottawa-based Corel will likely marry the Windows-like K Desktop Environment graphical user interface with the well-respected, noncommercial Debian version of Linux and its closely associated applications. A beta version of Corel's offering will be available in August. The company will follow up with a full version of its WordPerfect office suite for Linux this fall, including Quattro Pro spreadsheet and Presentations software.
Meanwhile, Orem, Utah-based Caldera will announce Version 2.2 of its OpenLinux, which also uses the K Desktop Environment interface, at Comdex/Spring '99 in Chicago this week. To ease installation, the Version 2.2. CD runs automatically from Windows and includes PowerQuest Corp.'s drive partitioning and boot managing software. OpenLinux 2.2 also includes WordPerfect 8 and StarDivision GmbH's StarOffice.
Windows convergence coming
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