Ximian aims to ease Linux use -- for a price

Open source software developer Ximian Inc. announced Monday a fee-based version of its service for downloading, installing and maintaining applications on Linux and Unix computers, as well as desktop productivity suite also for Unix and Linux systems.

The products and services -- which include the first offerings from Ximian that customers will have to pay for -- were announced in conjunction with the start of the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco this week.

The Boston-based company said it will begin selling two fee-based versions of its software management service, called Red Carpet. First offered in April at no charge, Red Carpet is designed to make it easier for users who run Linux on both desktops and servers to install and update applications.

The software works with a variety of Linux distributions including software from Red Hat Inc., SuSE Linux AG and TurboLinux Inc. It also supports some versions of Unix, including Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP-UX.

Ximian said the fee-based versions of Red Carpet guarantee high-speed access to its servers, which store Linux and Unix applications from third-party software vendors that can be downloaded by Ximian's customers. Red Carpet Express, a service for Individual users, is priced at US$9.95. A corporate version, called Red Carpet Corporate Connect, is priced at $150 per CPU per year, and requires a $2,500 set-up fee.

The corporate version allows organizations to use the service to download, manage and update software running on corporate workstations and servers. It can also be customized to manage a company's internal software applications, officials said.

Both the single-user and corporate versions are due to launch in October, Ximian said. The company will continue to offer its free version of Red Carpet, but said the pay services operate faster because they offer priority access to the company's servers.

Ximian also announced Monday its first packaged software product, called Ximian Desktop, which includes a suite of desktop applications and a graphical user interface for Linux PCs.

"We see the biggest opportunity of open source on the desktop in the corporation," said Nat Friedman, co-founder and vice president of product management at Ximian.

A standard edition of the product includes the Mozilla Web browser, a preview version of Ximian's e-mail management software Evolution, office productivity applications, the latest version of the Ximian GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) graphical user interface, and open source spreadsheet and image editing software.

"This is intended to be very familiar for people migrating from the Windows platform," Friedman said.

The professional version adds StarOffice, the open source desktop software suite from Sun Microsystems Inc. Ximian Desktop sells for $29.95 for the standard edition and $49.95 for the professional version. Both are available for purchase from Ximian's Web site.

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