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Corel closes the curtain on open source

With the winding down of its open-source development site, Corel is finally making its departure from the world of Linux and "free" software.

LONDON--Corel has announced it is officially shutting down its open-source software development site as of March 1, closing the book on its attempt to develop a user-friendly alternative to Windows.

Canada-based Corel informed developers of the move in a brief note on the site: "Please note: this site will no longer be available as of March 1st, 2002." Corel was not immediately available for comment.

The software firm developed its own consumer-oriented distribution of Linux, based on Debian's Linux distribution, but most significant was the release of Linux versions of its popular WordPerfect word processor and Corel Draw graphics application. Corel also contributed to open-source projects such as Wine, a Windows emulator for Linux, and printing software.

v Linux is based on an open-source license that requires developers to make their contributions freely available to other developers. It has become popular in the server market and is considered one of the few operating systems with the potential to challenge Microsoft's Windows monopoly.

Once the dot-com-fuelled Linux hype began to fade in 2000, Corel decided to narrow its focus on more traditional software offerings and began selling off its open-source assets. In August 2001 it sold Corel Linux to an investment consortium called Linux Global Partners, which formed Xandros with a core team of Corel developers and US$10 million of start-up funding.

Xandros is developing its own Linux distribution based on Corel Linux 3.0, again with the focus on the desktop consumer and corporate user. An early, pre-release version of Xandros' software has already surfaced as the core of Lindows OS, a version of Linux touted as being able to run popular Windows applications.

Other companies have tried but failed to make Linux practical for ordinary users. Eazel, notably, was a well-funded desktop Linux start-up which was unsuccessful last year. Organizations like Ximian, KDE and Gnome are continuing the effort.

Corel was also involved in a project to port its applications to Sun Microsystems' Java language, which also competes with Windows by its platform-independent nature.

In 2000, Microsoft bought a US$135 million stake in Corel, a move to partly prop up Corel's Microsoft-alternative applications and ward off future antitrust actions. But the deal also meant Corel would help Microsoft port .Net building blocks to FreeBSD, an open-source version of Unix. Apple's Mac OS X is built on a BSD core.

The software giant enlisted Corel to build shared-source-code versions of Microsoft's C# language and associated programming components called the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI).

However, the components themselves won't be released under an open-source license, but instead will be what Microsoft calls "shared source", which allows researchers to access and modify code, but not to use it in a commercial product.

Open-source advocates argue that shared source offers no incentive to form a developer community, since access to source code is selective and the uses to which the code can be put is limited.

CNET News.com's Joe Wilcox contributed to this report.