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After a year's public development Stardock's extravagantly ambitious DesktopX has finally reached version 1.0, and hit the download servers.

It gives Windows similar functionality to the IBM Workplace Shell that OS/2 veterans know and love, and that Microsoft promised in its Cairo version of Windows NT. In fact Stardock CEO and shameless nostalgic Brad Wardell has put IBM's vintage 1991 WPS demo online here.

There's no shortage of alternative Windows shells, taskbar replacements and the like, but Stardock makes much of not playing in the same tarpit.

"We're not a Windows shell. You can install something like LiteStep but then you're blowing away Explorer," says Stardock's Brad Wardell. "DesktopX is object orientated - and not just buzzword object orientated."

DesktopX takes advantage of the COM interfaces in Windows applications. But this kind of stuff be in the OS, rather than as a user space application?

"I agree. The only reason we did this is that IBM, Apple and Microsoft didn't put it in the operating system," says Wardell.

"We have an object that tells you whether you've got incoming mail. Why does it take a third party to do that? Why should you have to open a 20MB application to see if you've got new mail?"

Although this is really base camp as far as Brad's concerned.

"We've got the infrastructure, but we'd like to start to create COM wrappers so people can manipulate the programs without having to do programming themselves," he says. "The only people doing this now really are virus writers!"

Other plans include bridging DesktopX to Windows Scripting Host so VBScript and Javascript can be used.

It's really not too shabby. There are screenshots of Aqua-like themes here and here (note to Apple lawyers with high blood pressure: keep an Aspirin handy before viewing these), and the home page is here.

Alas, no chance of a Linux version though. ®

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Microsoft's Cairo reborn as killer eye-candy
DesktopX goes public
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