Corel will help grow the Linux market by offering an easy-to-use version of the operating system that manufacturers could offer bundled with low-cost desktop PCs, Michael Cowpland, Corel's president and CEO, said in a keynote speech kicking off LinuxWorld.
"So far, (Linux) has been mostly for enthusiasts and for servers. The desktop use hasn't happened in a big way," he said. "To become really popular, we believe Linux must have the look and feel of Windows."
Corel will develop a version of the open-source operating system that is easy for users to set up, with automatic hardware detection and configuration and a feature that allows users to download the latest updates from the Internet, he said.
Corel's Linux distribution will also feature a technology under development at Corel called WinE, designed to allow users to run Windows applications on their Linux desktop. The company demonstrated WinE, showing a Windows version of Corel Quattro running on a Linux computer.
Corel is one of several large corporations announcing support for the Linux operating system and for the open-source software method.
Other firms making Linux commitments include Oracle, which said today it will have a Linux version of its Oracle 8i database available for software developers within 30 days.
Meanwhile, Computer Associates International announced a partnership with Red Hat Software under which CA will develop versions of Unicenter TNG, including the Unicenter TNG Framework, that support Red Hat's version of Linux.
"This is, I think, the coming out party for Linux, the sweet 16," said Jon "Mad Dog" Hall, executive director of Linux International, in his introductory remarks. "This is the time the business community is embracing the Linux community, and the Linux community should also embrace them."
Hall said Linux enthusiasts shouldn't be discouraged that the vast majority of the estimated 210 million PCs worldwide run Microsoft Windows.
"For all the people who say Microsoft has won and there's no opportunity for a Linux OS, I want to point out that there are 5.6 billion users on the face of this planet, and that means 5.4 billion of them have not selected their operating system yet," he quipped, drawing laughter from the attendees here.
Linux is the fastest growing operating system on the market, with an estimated 12 million users -- a number that has grown 80 per cent in the last 12 months, Corel's Cowpland said. Linux is finding new users in organisations as diverse as Canada's national railways system, the US Navy and the car maker Mercedes, he said.
In Mexico, the school system has chosen Linux as its standard operating system for use in 140,000 schools, Cowpland said.
"The school community will save thousands of dollars they don't have to spend on (Windows) NT, and have a whole lot better operating system, too," Cowpland said, in one of several digs the speakers here aimed at Microsoft.
While hardware vendors began to line up behind Linux in 1998, 1999 is the year of Linux applications, Cowpland said. The company already offers a commercial version of Linux WordPerfect 7; all of its applications will be available on Linux by the end of 1999, he said.