Mandrakesoft on Wednesday released the latest version of its retail Linux distribution, Mandrakelinux 10.1.
François Bancilhon, the chief executive officer of Mandrakesoft, said that the most significant features of the new release were improved mobility and hardware support.
Mandrakesoft is a relative newcomer to the Linux marketplace -- it started at the end of 1998, five years later than Red Hat and six years later than SuSE. According to a Netcraft survey in July 2004, only 1.3 percent of servers connected to the Web were of the Mandrake distribution, while 49.8 and 11.8 percent were Red Hat and SuSE respectively.
The product has integrated Intel's Centrino drivers to allow users take advantage of the mobile capabilities of notebooks. Mobility features include roaming capabilities for Wi-Fi users, and Bluetooth support, which allows users to synchronise their PDA or smartphone with their PC. Bancilhon also claimed that the product provides better power management so that laptop batteries will last longer.
Mandrakesoft also says that it has improved its hardware management software, so that it can detect and automatically configure a large number of devices, including USB storage devices and network printers.
The release also contains various new applications, including Skype, a free VoIP product and Scribus, an open-source desktop publishing application. The networked version of Mandrakelinux 10.1, PowerPack+ also offers an open-source groupware solution, which includes email, group calendaring and shared contacts.
The groupware solution uses two applications from the KDE desktop suite: Kolab server and Kontact client application. It also contains updated versions of various applications including both KDE 3.2.3 and GNOME 2.6 desktops, as well as a new version of the Mozilla Web browser and the Gimp image editing application.
Although Linux is clearly playing catch-up in a desktop world that is dominated by Windows, Bancilhon said that Linux was actually more functional than Windows because it didn't have to fend off so much malware.
"If you look at the core functionality, which is all that 95 percent of users use, Linux is equal, if not superior, to Windows," said Bancilhon. "It is superior to Windows in one simple way -- it is virus-free. Also, with some span-filtering technologies we're far ahead of Windows."
There are various spam-filtering technologies available on Linux server including Spam Assassin, BogoFilter and CRM114.
However, Bancilhon conceded that some features are not available on Linux, such as complex Excel macro facilities, which have not yet been ported onto OpenOffice.org, the open-source productivity application.
James Governor, an analyst from Red Monk, told ZDNet UK that Mandrakesoft is not the only Linux distribution offering mobility features, but this is an important feature for users.
Stuart Cohen, the chief executive officer of Open Source Development Labs, which promotes the adoption of the Linux operating system, told ZDNet UK in an interview on Tuesday that mobility is a key issue for Linux on the desktop.
"One area where Linux is weak is on laptops, for example, with synchronising and shared calendar facilities," said Cohen. "There are a lot of issues around the mobile professional -- this is probably the biggest issue for Linux on the desktop -- it is already OK for fixed functions, call centres and IT professionals."
Mandrakelinux 10.1 is available in three versions: Discovery for beginners, PowerPack for advanced users and PowerPack+ for small networks. It can be downloaded immediately from the company Web site by Mandrakeclub members and will be available for retail in mid-November.
The company is due to announce its corporate product line in mid November.