LINUXWORLD - Xandros targets wider SMB market

Since 2002, Xandros has been selling its own flavor of desktop Linux after it bought the former Corel Linux business and rebuilt the technology into a product for consumers and small and medium-size businesses.

Now the company is jumping deeper into the operating system sales war by introducing Xandros Server Standard Edition software next month. Its goal is to try to capture a heftier chunk of the SMB marketplace and establish Xandros Linux as the operating system of choice for smaller businesses that want easier administration and lower costs compared to Microsoft Windows.

At the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, Andreas Typaldos, CEO of New York-based Xandros, said his company is also aiming squarely at the void left in the market several years ago by Linux vendor Red Hat when it began to target large companies with its beefed-up enterprise server product line. The move left smaller businesses and consumers without a lower-cost boxed version of the company's Linux operating system.

Xandros is based on the stable and proven Debian kernel, which is used widely in corporate Linux deployments in Europe, Typaldos said. Xandros has two desktop Linux operating systems -- deluxe and business versions -- and its Xandros Deployment Management Server (xDMS) tool kit, which allows IT workers to easily configure, customize and deploy the operating system to many corporate users. Until now, the missing link for the company has been a Debian-based server operating system, Typaldos said.

"There is no server product on Debian, so we are taking advantage," he said. "To complete the solution on Debian, we needed to finish up the server," which had been in the works for several years.

For SMBs, Xandros Linux offers flexibility by not requiring specialized Linux skills for deployment, configuration and other administrative tasks, Typaldos said. Instead, Xandros uses an interface that is reminiscent of Microsoft Windows, which makes it easier to use for IT workers who are long familiar with Windows.

And that, Typaldos said, is a key ingredient for the company's continuing success: SMBs have been much slower to look at Linux over Windows because of the specialized skills traditionally involved.

"SMB IT people don't have needed Linux skills," Typaldos said. "They have Windows-oriented skills, not Linux-oriented skills. Xandros gives them a Linux solution that leverages Windows skill sets. A Windows administrator will be able to administer in Xandros in similar ways."

By making the administration and workflow of Xandros Linux easier than other Linux operating systems, the company hopes to carve out a bigger chunk of the SMB marketplace, Typaldos said.

"This is a huge step," he said. "The big idea here is community management by controlling workflow to make installation and configuration fail-proof ... which is what you need for smaller departments and SMBs. Linux can now go where it has never gone before. That's what we're bringing to the Linux community."

Dana Gardner, an analyst with Interarbor Solutions in Gilford, N.H., said Xandros' approach could be successful in the Linux marketplace for many SMBs. "I think there has been inevitable creep in the kernel," Gardner said. "There are instances where people want a slim and lean approach" as opposed to a large-scale operating system. "Businesses that want to have that will want this kind of thing in the marketplace. It starts as a niche, but it could become prominent," depending on how it is offered and encouraged by resellers.

Interestingly, there has been a similar slimming down in the embedded operating systems space, Gardner said. "It's really a natural occurrence" as a software applications gain features and become bloated, then make room for newer, leaner systems, he said. "Everytime it gets too big, there's going to be another opportunity in the market. "Some people want prix fixe, and some want A la carte."

Xandros Server Standard Edition, which is in production and will be released May 1, will work with Windows, SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux and other Linux distributions, according to the company. The server operating system will begin at US$449 per server and includes a groupware server, backup server, print server, streaming media server and more. A Web server and other versions are also being contemplated.

Xandros will release the next version of its desktop operating system, Xandros Linux 4.0, in June.

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