Corel Interview Part II: Reaction in the Linux community

In the second part of our exclusive interview with Corel's Derek Burney, we look at the reaction from the Linux community and the Microsoft angle.

Part 1

Part 3 Derek Burney: The news I guess is something that we'll be announcing at LinuxWorld which is something that we're code-naming Corel Linux until we come up with something better or more legal. What that amounts to is essentially another distribution flavour, but one that has more desktop-oriented functionality. We like what we see from Red Hat and so on but we find that there's still quite a ways to go before the average computer user could get up to speed, even if they're familiar with Windows. ZDNet UK News: So clearly you're aiming Corel Linux at the sort of person who's not really interested in getting into the technical details. People who know Linux is a trusted operating system and want to use Windows applications on it? Derek Burney: I couldn't have said it better myself [laughs] It's my view that a person running an application shouldn't have to know what operating system they're using. It shouldn't be in their face. It should be entirely transparent. ZDNet UK News: How do you think the Linux community will react to this? It's actually going to be quite a shock because we haven't said anything about it in the past. But what's interesting is that although some people may view it as a surprise, all the analysts that we've been talking to over the past couple of weeks or even months, have asked us why we aren't partnering with a distribution or doing one ourselves. They recognise that we have the expertise with usability and user interface design and they see that as the one thing that Linux is lacking in order to make it a full-blown desktop environment. We've been quietly planning this. I think they'll welcome the news. ZDNet UK News: How long have been working on it? Derek Burney: I would say a few months, we have some components already done but that was in a different sort of a model. ZDNet UK News: Is it realistic to bring Linux down to the consumer? I can envisage some of the hard core users condemning it as blasphemous. Is it realistic to even want to bring Linux to the desktop? Derek Burney: Oh I think so. If you look back at the price of the hardware and so on let's say a or two year ago when you were buying a Pentium for a $1000 and if you wanted to put productivity software on there whether it's our package or Microsoft's, plus an operating system, you're paying approximately $1000 for the hardware and $200-300 for the licensing. With the hardware prices dropping rapidly to the point where you can get the machine for under $500, the price of software licenses (which have gone up) makes for a much larger percentage of the total cost. That implies that software license fees are becoming more important in the decision making process of buying a desktop machine. ZDNet UK News: Is that the issue? Isn't it more about having a reliable operating system that doesn't crash every five minutes, not to mention running something that isn't owned by Microsoft? Derek Burney: The anti-Microsoft feeling isn't really there. We did an interesting survey to find out from our customers who downloaded the free version of WordPerfect. We asked them why and one of the choices they had was because they didn't like Microsoft. Not one person responded in that way. I was surprised. Reliability was the key factor. And this is one of the huge advantages that Linux offers compared to something like Java. Java came out initially with a huge anti-Microsoft sentiment and it was fairly obvious that it was created to disturb Redmond. When something is designed and created in order to take down something else, it's typically not as good because the motives are too short-sighted. And sure enough Java hasn't lived up to its potential. Linux on the other hand was around for quite a while, it was designed not with the intent to destroy Microsoft but with the intent of furthering the cause of Open Source development. The fact that it happens to compete with Microsoft is just a real side issue and what amounts to quite frankly a bonus for us. But it was not the intent and for that reason Linux is much better. But as far as the reliability to the consumer I'm not sure that's as big an issue because although it's well-known that Linux is considerably more stable than NT or Windows 95, those operating systems aren't unstable to the point where they can't run their software.