CodeWeavers app aimed at easier Office use on Linux

Software vendor CodeWeavers Inc. has released a new CrossOver Office Server edition that will allow thin-client users to run Microsoft Office and several other popular applications under Linux or Sun Solaris without having to run Microsoft Windows.

In an announcement Tuesday, St. Paul, Minn.-based CodeWeavers said the new Server Edition 1.3.1 is an expansion of its existing CrossOver Office desktop application, released last March. That product allows a desktop PC user running Linux to run Microsoft Office, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Visio without the Windows operating system.

The new server edition means systems administrators can install the server version of CrossOver Office and one copy of Office and make it available to users across the network, minimizing administration and installations tasks.

Each user of the client applications will still need to have the appropriate licenses to use the software.

For the first time, the server edition of CrossOver Office will allow Solaris users to also share the applications. Other Unix support is in the works, said CEO Jeremy White. "We can actually make it work very quickly with any Unix," he said. "We're sort of waiting for customers to drive us to do it."

The server edition supports Office 2000 and Office 97, with Office XP support expected to follow within the next month, he said. Office 95 isn't currently supported, but the company hopes to add that in the future to help support legacy applications when Microsoft won't, he said.

The number of users that can be supported at once on the server edition is constrained only by the server hardware it runs on, he said.

Competitors including Citrix Systems Inc. offer similar technologies, but they cost as much as 20 percent more, White said.

Not all Microsoft Office functionalities are available when using CrossOver Office Server, he acknowledged. "There are occasions where there are bugs," White said, though development is continuing to stamp out the remaining compatibility problems. He estimated that some 99 percent of available functions are supported.

"CrossOver Server Edition is designed to help the corporate marketplace bridge to Linux," White said. "With Server Edition we offer corporate workgroups the ability to control costs by consolidating on a lower-cost desktop, while still running the applications their users have grown accustomed to."

Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said there are cost benefits to reducing the Windows licenses in a business, but she cautioned that the use of CrossOver Office would be dependent on how many users it could support in each specific company that might deploy it.

Other benefits would include the lower costs associated with running Linux and the ability of Linux to run on machines that are older, without requiring costly regularly scheduled hardware upgrades, she said.

"Users would have to evaluate the benefits of running Microsoft Office on Linux," Quandt said.

Pricing for the server edition begins at US$1,195 for the software, with an additional $1,185 for a license for 25 concurrent users. A 100-user concurrent license costs $4,000. Unlimited enterprise site licenses are also available.