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Corel to offer own Linux distribution

Company pins future on Linux becoming a desktop OS -- good luck, we say

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Corel will next week announce its own Linux distribution, according the company's executive VP of engineering, Derek Burney. However, Red Hat, SuSE and co. don't quite need to start worrying just yet -- while Corel knows who it's targeting, it doesn't seem so sure about how it's going to reach them. Burney, quoted in an interview with ZDNet UK, said: "We'll be announcing at LinuxWorld something that we're code-naming Corel Linux. What it amounts to is essentially another distribution flavour, but one that has more desktop-oriented functionality." The Corel VP went on to suggest that central to Corel's plan for its own Linux release is the Wine Windows-to-Linux portability technology, which is designed to make it easy to migrate applications from Windows to the open source OS. Corel sees the availability of applications as being key to Linux's acceptance as a desktop OS. Fine, but Burney also admits that right now only a few Windows applications work with Wine -- and most of them are games. "Until Wine has a 100 per cent complete Windows coverage, it will never be able to run all the Windows applications properly," he adds, and goes on to point out that Wine won't be finished until at six to nine months have gone by -- and then we'll have to wait for developers to modify their applications to be 'Wine aware'. That leaves Corel's strategy relying on not only the development of Wine, currently happening within the open source community (so it probably will happen sooner rather than later), but on competitors' making the business decision to commit to Linux as a desktop OS. Incidentally, Burney's example of another developer who would benefit from Wine is Adobe, which only a week ago or so was mooted as considering making a hostile bid for Corel. Perhaps the companies are closer than they have been letting on -- and we'd welcome comments from anyone who knows more about this... Back to Linux, and Corel is also relying on hardware vendors to begin offering Linux as a desktop alternative to Windows. Put all these factors together and you have what really looks like a 'here's hoping...' strategy (the sound you can here in the background is Michael Cowpland straining to keep his finger's crossed). Linux has some way to go before it reaches the maturity required to attract the kind of mainstream users Corel appears to be interested in. A decent GUI wouldn't go amiss -- though Gnome looks like it could be the one to provide that -- and it needs to be a darn site easier to use pace the techies who love its complexity. Burney admits on the many users who downloaded the Linux release of WordPerfect, hardly any did so because they disliked Microsoft, so Corel can't rely on converts through some kind of post-DOJ anti-Gates backlash. Increasingly, Corel's interest in Linux looks more like a desperate leap on a bandwagon, not dissimilar to its erstwhile jump onto Java that ultimately went belly-up. At least then the company could switch to Linux, but if its Linux-as-a-desktop-OS idea isn't realised, this time there's nowhere else to go. No wonder it's worried about hostile takeovers. ®

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