Comdex '99: Corel puts a penguin the desktop

Comdex '99: Corel puts a penguin the desktop

Summary: "Linux is as user friendly as Windows"

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Comdex is finally here and so is the first end-user Linux. At Comdex on Monday, Corel launched Corel Linux--the Linux for the rest of us.

Corel wasn't the least bit shy with its launch. The press conference began with the announcement: "Welcome to the future of Linux" with a pounding rock beat and video.

Technically, there were no surprises. Corel Linux is based on Debian 2.2.12 Linux kernel. Corel chose Debian because of its code's quality.

For the GUI, Corel uses the KDE 1.1.2 desktop environment. With this environment, like the Gnome Windows manager before it, KDE has fully embraced themes. Themes you ask? With themes, users can choose the look and feel of their desktops.

Indeed, for users who like to arrange their desktops just so, Corel Linux with KDE offers far easier-to-use customisation tools than its competitors. In particular, Corel Linux outdoes the other Linux distributions in its handling of video modes. Often a sore-point for new Linux users, Corel Linux makes it as easy as open, slide to the desired setting and click.

Indeed, if you know how to adjust a Windows 9x desktop, you're well on your way to handling Corel's front-end.

The resemblance is more than interface-deep. Corel Linux is file-compatible with Windows. With its graphical file manager, users can wander a Windows 9x like file manager that enables users to access floppy drives, CD-ROMs, Simple Message Block (SMB), Network File System (NFS), file transfer protocol (ftp) sites and normal local Unix file systems as easily as Windows users can wander about their network neighborhood. In particular, new Linux users will never need to know the pain of having to mount floppy and CD-ROMs before using them.

For hardware, Corel comes with automatic detection of Peripheral Component Interface (PCI) devices. If your users are still using Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) devices, though, it's likely you'll need to install some of these devices manually. Considering how difficult it is to do automatic ISA device installation correctly, this is a blessing in disguise.

The installation routine is simpler than anything Linux has seen heretofore. While Corel no longer claims a six-minute install, with its three-step install on even the slowest machines it supports--Pentiums with 24MBs of RAM and half-a-gig of hard drive--it won't take more than 20 minutes to go from popping in the CD-ROM to booting.

While Michael Copeland, Corel CEO, claims that with this release, "Linux is as user friendly as Windows." However, work needs to be done. That said, for Windows end-users Corel Linux is certainly the closest thing they'll ever find to a Windows look and feel that doesn't come in a box from Redmond.

What it lacks, except for Corel's WordPerfect 8 for Linux, are applications that look and feel like Windows applications. Linux users might not care, but this is not a Linux for Linux lovers; this is a Linux for Windows users.

Corel is working hard, though, on taking of that lack of familiar applications. By the first quarter of 2000, Corel plans on delivering both the complete Corel WordPerfect Office Suite and CorelDraw.

While these are still in alpha, a demo of the Quattro Pro spreadsheet and CorelDraw were impressive even by demo standards. Both alpha programs work smoothly and appear to be feature equal with their Windows counterparts.

For support, Corel plans to use its own internal support system at first. The company also will augment this by shortly inking deals with major Linux helpdesk firms. For end-users, the standard version comes with 30 days of free e-mail support. Buyers of the deluxe version will get free support for 30 days both by e-mail and phone.

Corel Linux, like all Linuxes, is available for immediate download from Corel's Linux site. Commercially, Corel, long a reseller friend, plans to make full use of the channel.

The product will come in two versions. The standard will retail for $49 (£29). The deluxe version, which we'll bet will be the most popular one, will sell for between $79 and $89. Why? Because, we think users won't be able to resist the fact that it comes with a free stuffed penguin in every box.

Considering how easy and powerful this Linux is, administrators, too, may find it hard to resist putting the Linux penguin in desktop boxes.

For full coverage, see the Comdex '99 Special Report .

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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