Analysis: Opening the desktop

I normally don't like to write about open-source efforts until they are fairly mature, but some ideas are just too good to ignore.

One such effort is the newly announced OpenCD Project (http://www.theopencd.org ). Its concept is very simple, so simple in fact that if the current team fails to follow through on it, I have no doubt that someone else will.

The first premise of the OpenCD project is to deliver a number of mature, useful, open-source desktop solutions on a single CD. Now that is hardly unique, but the second premise may be: The goal is to run on Windows and perhaps Mac OS.

Key to this project is the fact that many pieces of open-source software already run on other platforms. Central applications are expected to includeOpenOffice, Mozilla, the GIMP, and AbiWord.

Part of this effort is spurred by the recent milestones of many of these applications. OpenOffice, an extensive open-source office suite, just announced the release of Version 1.0. Mozilla, the open-source browser born from Netscape in 1999, recently announced the first release candidate for its impending Version 1.0. AbiWord, a word processor, is rapidly approaching Version 1.0, and the GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Project), a Photoshop-like application, is currently at stable Release 1.2.3.

The project intends to identify other candidates for inclusion on the CD. Ensuing efforts will ensure that each piece of software can be installed and deinstalled quickly and easily by a typical PC user.

Why is this project so important? The concern that keeps most offices from migrating to open-source desktops centers on the applications. Businesses often rely on proprietary solutions such as Microsoft Office, which are not available on Linux (unless you are using a product such as CrossOver Office to run native Windows applications on Linux). The thought of changing over both operating system and applications can be intimidating.

But what would happen if businesses could try open-source desktop applications easily, without changing operating systems? If they could easily install and deinstall these applications on their current desktop machines, they could test the applications at will. They may even find that they can run their businesses using some of these applications instead of the proprietary applications currently gracing their desktops.

A CD that lets businesses, schools, and consumers use open-source applications on their existing systems without fear, fuss, or cost? Now that's an idea worth supporting.

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