Xandros readies Corel Linux distribution

The distribution of the Linux operating system for desktop PCs developed by Corel Corp. is set to make a comeback in April, according to the startup that licensed the technology last year.

Xandros Corp., a company founded on Corel's technology, is preparing to take the wraps off its Linux desktop operating system, Chief Executive Officer Mike Bego said Friday. At the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York, which begins Tuesday, Xandros will be on hand to plug its new software.

The company said it would also make an announcement late in the week related to the beta release of Xandros Desktop 1.0, its debut desktop operating system product. Xandros had said it would release a beta version of the software early this year.

Xandros licensed Corel's Linux distribution in August with US$10 million in backing from Linux Global Partners LLC, an incubator that has financed several Linux software makers, including Ximian Corp. Xandros paid Corel $2 million to license Corel's Linux operating system and related applications, and to take on the development team responsible for developing the original software. Now about five months after announcing its intention to ship a desktop operating system that would compete with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, Xandros is preparing to bring its work out of the research lab. However, it is entering a difficult market, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC).

"The desktop operating system market is dominated by Microsoft. And by dominated, I mean, in 1999 Windows accounted for 88 percent share of shipments. By 2000 it held 92 percent share. In 2001, its share will have risen even more," Kusnetzky said, citing IDC market research. "That kind of tells me you'd have to do something very interesting to get people to be interested in using a new platform."

One draw to Linux could be the price. Linux is a open-source operating system, and its source code is freely available for developers to see, modify and redistribute. That means a software vendor can typically sell a Linux operating system for less than Microsoft charges for Windows. Xandros has yet to announce the pricing of its desktop product.

In addition to the desktop operating system, which is based on the yet-to-be released 3.0 Version of Corel's Linux, Xandros will offer office productivity applications, Internet access services and other applications for Xandros Desktop. The company also plans to offer technical consulting services and Linux server software later in the year, Xandros said in August.

Since receiving its startup cash from Linux Global Partners, Xandros has received a strategic investment to fund its efforts, Bego said Friday. He declined to comment on how much money it received or where the money came from.

The company has also licensed its core technology to Lindows.com Inc., a Linux desktop startup formed in October by Michael Robertson, the founder of digital music company MP3.com Inc, Bego said. Lindows is packaging Xandros' distribution of the operating system with a technology that enables applications developed for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system to run on Linux, he said.

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