New Linux Desktops to Debut at LinuxWorld

FRAMINGHAM (08/11/2000) - Two companies will attempt to change the face of Linux forever - or at least the interface - at LinuxWorld in San Jose next week.

Eazel Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., will demonstrate its Nautilus Linux desktop and file management system for the first time. The Nautilus desktop environment features a fresh, intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) based on the popular GNOME desktop environment, and is easily customized to fit users' tastes and levels of Linux knowledge. (For instance, users can specify if they want to be able to access the Linux command line from the desktop.)Nautilus also includes features that allow users to share and manage files across a network. Software inventory management, Web-based software notification and auto-update tools are included to keep Linux boxes running Nautilus operating smoothly with the latest open source security and operating system patches.

A beta version of Nautilus will be available for download the week of LinuxWorld at www.eazel.com. The final release available for free in the fall.

"I've been looking forward to seeing what Eazel comes out with," says Maurice Smiley, a systems administrator at Houston-based Gulf Interstate Engineering, an equipment design firm for the gas and oil industries. Smiley uses Intel and Power PC Linux servers, and has Linux on several system administration PCs in his office. "The biggest area Linux is lacking is in its interface and ease of use," he adds.

Lots of industry buzz has circulated around Eazel since it was announced last fall. The fact that the company was founded by Andy Hertzfeld and Michael Boich, architects of the break-through Apple Macintosh user interface, has helped to boost expectations of anti-Microsoft users for a PC desktop savior.

Helix Code is another Linux desktop developer looking to make a splash at LinuxWorld. Helix Code will debut Helix Code Version 1.0 featuring the GNOME desktop environment along with several tools aimed at making the Linux PCs more accessible to the masses.

"This is a desktop aimed at all end users," from the most skillful Linux hacker to someone new to computers in general, Friedman says.

The package includes a simple installation program and the GNOME Updater tool which lets users update their GNOME desktop and Linux operating system from the Web. The company also will announce a partnership with IBM Corp. to put Helix Code 1.0 on Linux-based IBM laptops.

The Cambridge-Mass.-based startup has offered its Helix Code GNOME Desktop since April. The system is bundled with open source spreadsheet, image editing and its Evolution package, which includes an e-mail client, calendar and contact management software. Helix Code 1.0 will include all the features of the earlier GNOME Desktop and will run on all Linux distributions. It will be available for free, but users will have to pay for support.

Although feature rich and low in price, these new Linux desktops will probably not make much of a dent in the corporate or consumer desktop operating system markets, some analysts say.

"At this point in time, I don't think that the world at large is ready for Linux on the desktop," says George Weiss, vice president and research director for research firm The Gartner Group. Weiss says the lack of applications for Linux PCs and the extreme labor costs that would be involved in migrating a business' desktops away from Windows will keep Linux desktops out of the mainstream.

"There has to be some overriding reason for users to make a change from their current desktop architecture," Weiss says. "I don't feel that's there right now. Windows may not be perfect in every aspect, but for what users want, it may be good enough."

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