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Xandros To Roll Out Myriad Servers After Desktop Release

From Desktop to Server

  • July 31, 2004
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

At next week's LinuxWorld show in San Francisco, desktop Linux pioneer Xandros will preview the Xandros Desktop Management Server (xDMS), the first in a new series of servers that will roll out by the end of next year. Xandros' future server line-up will include file, mail, and FTP servers, among others, said Xandros Chairman and CTO Dr. Frederick Berenstein, who remains bullish over the future of desktop Linux, too.

Like Xandros' existing desktop OS products, xDMS will be aimed at ease of use, Berenstein said in an interview. "Instead of going, 'Please send in the Linux professionals,' (systems administrators) will be able to just click on 'Linux administrator.' Then they'll say, 'Oh. Okay. I know how to do this.'"

Xandros has just completed a pilot of the new desktop management server, which is slated for release in September. xDMS will include remote mangement capabilities, too.

Xandros' first steps into the servers just so happen to coincide with emerging desktop Linux initiatives, also geared to user friendliness, from Linux distributors Red Hat and Novell/SUSE.

Meanwhile, just days before LinuxWorld, Xandros this week announced version 2.5 of its desktop OS, a product being touted by the company for its suitability to enterprises.

In a usability sense, Berenstein hasn't been impressed by earlier products from either Red Hat or SUSE. "The reality is that almost all of the PCs being sold today ship with Microsoft Windows. Our products can be easily used by anyone who is (familar with) Windows. Our desktop OS can be set up in 14 minutes by just about anybody," he contended.

For example, the Xandros desktop provides Windows authentication and directory services out of the box, without the need to set up Samba, he said.

"Our servers will also be oriented to ease of use. Other companies, such as Red Hat and Novell/SUSE, have been telling people, 'You should use Linux, because it's more stable and secure. But you must do things as we do.'"

Xandros, on the other hand, takes the position that "in order to succeed, Linux must not only be demonstrably better than Windows, but backward-compatible (with Windows)."

Meanwhile, however, Xandros welcomes greater competition in desktop Linux, according to the chairman/CTO. In fact, in his role as co-chairman of Linux Global Partners, Berenstein was a leading light a few years back in providing initial funding to both Xandros and Ximian, a company later acquired by Novell.

"I like competition. If you're all alone in the baseball field, it probably means that you're in the wrong baseball field. You have to be confident that something will become big to invest in it," Berenstein said.

"I didn't think we'd be alone (in desktop Linux) for very long. I assumed Red Hat would do something (on the desktop). Novell, clearly, is a different case. Novell, which was primarily a server company, purchased SUSE, also primarily a server company. So that fits in well. But Novell now has to contend with both KDE and Gnome, the two competing widget sets in the Linux desktop world." SUSE's desktop has been traditionally built around KDE, whereas Ximian's co-founders, Nat Friedman and Miguel di Icaza, advocated for Gnome.

Berenstein also pointed out that Evolution and Ximian Connector, two products obtained by Novell through its Ximian acquisition, are both open source tools. "This means that anybody--including us--can use Evolution and Connector in their products."

In any event, the desktop Linux market looks certain to turn into an expanding pie, according to Berenstein, who foresees opportunities in a variety of different places.

"We already have a decent base of customers who are buying OEM computers installed with Linux. These are mostly individuals. They're getting the PCs from resellers as well as stories like Microcenter."

Other customers, particularly overseas, are buying inexpensive used PCs, and then swapping out old Windows OS for desktop Linux.

At the same time, Xandros is starting to work its way into the university and enterprise markets, two areas Berenstein views as particularly promising.

For example, Acadia University recently announced the selection of Xandros as the "distribution of choice" for its undergraduate students. Acadia is providing a custom edition of Xandros as part of a program that supplies notebooks to students and faculty. "Since then, we've been deluged with requests from other universities for something similar," he maintained.

Moreover, a number of enterprises are now running pilots of desktop Linux. "As soon as even one of these enterprises decides to go with desktop Linux, then will come the deluge."

The newly announced Ximian Desktop OS 2.5 comes with a custom edition of CrossOver Office 3.0.1, designed to make it simpler than before to run Windows apps on Linux. "This year also saw the advent of our business edition. According to a report from a packaging company that piloted this product, it was very easy to use. They didn't have a hard time migrating from Windows to Linux at all," Berenstein claimed.

Berenstein sees Windows security holes as one big driver for desktop Linux adoption. "Microsoft's made a big deal out of making Internet Explorer (IE) integral to its OS. But now, the strong integration with IE has turned out to part of the (security) problem."

More desktop Linux applications are also in the wings, according to Berenstein. "As Linux becomes a bigger part of the enterprise, there'll be new migration tools for moving Windows apps to Linux," he argued.

"There'll also be new applications of a type not necessarily seen before," he added, citing in particular an emerging Linux desktop suite containing "80 percent of the bells and whistles of Microsoft Office, in only 20MB of space."

The newly unveiled Xandros OS 2.5 comes in business, deluxe and standard editions. The business and deluxe editions include the upgraded CrossOver, which adds support for Lotus Notes 6.5.1, Microsoft Project 2000/2002, and Microsoft Outlook XP. All editions include Linux kernel 2.4.24 of the Linux kernel, as well as Mozilla version 1.6.

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