Helix Code offers Linux desktop with Windows feel

Microsoft Corp. may soon feel another pinch from the Linux community. Helix Code released a preview copy of its Gnome desktop for the Linux operating system, with plans to take on Microsoft Office in April.

Helix Code’s Gnome desktop – which will be free, except for service and support – runs on top of Linux, comes equipped with Gnumeric, the Gnome spreadsheet and has the look and feel of Windows 98, and is intended to have a friendly graphical user interfaces, menu system, file manager and desktop configuration tools. In April, Helix Code will ship Evolution with the Gnome Desktop, an integrated e-mail, calendar and contact management software package. The company also plans to provide upgrades for Gnumeric.

Helix Code’s Gnome Desktop works with all major Linux operating system releases, including Red Hat Linux, Linux Mandrake 6.1/7.0, SuSE 6.3, Caldera OpenLinux 2.3 and Linux PPC 2000. Helix Code plans support for five additional Unix-like platforms in April.

Nat Friedman, president of Helix Code, says the company is talking to those major Linux vendors about deals that would bundle Gnome Desktop and Evolution with Linux.

The Gnome Desktop could be a boon for users looking for an alternative to Windows and Microsoft productivity applications because it is free. Helix Code will charge only for service and support. Prices for those options were not announced.

“Microsoft has been the sole solution until now, but they have to know their days are numbered,” said Andreas Hohl, president and CEO of Comtelligence, an application service provider and turnkey Web server manufacturer that uses Linux internally and has customers using the platform. “In general, I think corporate America is getting a little tired of Microsoft.”