LINUXWORLD 2000 - Corel Aims to Add Polish to Linux

Corel's mission to bring Linux to the mainstream desktop has produced rapid results since the launch of Corel Linux at Comdex in the U.S. last November, according to Rene Schmidt, Corel's vice president of software development.

There have been over 2 million downloads of its WordPerfect 8 for Linux office applications suite, and over 150,000 free downloads of the Corel Linux OS (operating system), indicating broad acceptance of the open-source model, Schmidt said in a presentation at LinuxWorld 2000.

"We are seeing a transition in the computing industry towards how to bring benefits to end-users - not just how to make money," he said. "We are taking data and letting the users interface easily with that data."

Linux has several advantages, according to Schmidt: it is stable, efficient, flexible, modular, portable and secure.

However, there are several areas where Linux falls short of what is needed for mainstream acceptance, and that is where Corel has been focusing its development efforts, Schmidt said. These areas include ease of installation, broad hardware support, printer and font support, applications to handle existing and legacy documents, and interoperability with existing OSes, he said.

"What is missing (from Linux) is a focus on the desktop, some consistency and polish," he said. "With our extensive Windows and graphics experience we have a lot to offer here."

Corel will soon announce several new Linux initiatives, according to Schmidt. Apart from ongoing upgrades to the Debian/GNU Linux core and the KDE ("K" desktop environment) user interface, Corel will look to improve Windows interoperability, add speech enablement to the OS and provide closer Web integration into Corel Linux.

On the applications side, Corel yesterday announced WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux, and will release CorelDraw for Linux in the third quarter of the year, to complement Photo-Paint which is already available as a free download from the Internet. The vendor's Paradox database will also be ported to Linux soon, Corel officials at LinuxWorld said.

Corel will continue its contributions to the Wine project, which provides libraries for porting applications from Windows to Linux without needing to recompile them and which is expected to result in a broader range of desktop Linux applications soon. Wine also enables developers to create native Linux applications from their Windows code without having to make major modifications to the code, participants in the project have said.

"We've tried porting over other companies' applications using Wine and they ran," said Schmidt. "There will be many more companies offering Wine applications this year."

In the future, devices with Linux cut down to a 300K-byte kernel will be offered, Linux will offer seamless Web integration, and device costs will be reduced as companies using Linux do not need to pay an overhead to use the OS, according to Schmidt.

The open-source model will drive the IT industry to a new "relationship economy", with Linux devices "as pervasive as ice-cubes in the home," Schmidt said.

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