The improved graphical interface recently added to OpenLinux 2.3 coupled with the instability of Microsoft Windows NT opens the way for Linux to make inroads into the business market, according to one analyst.

Caldera Systems Inc.’s OpenLinux 2.3 interface may alienate some die-hard Linux fans, but the easy-to-use format and familiar look of OpenLinux are aimed at capturing the corporate market, said George Weiss, vice-president and research director at the Stanford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc.

Windows can leave some users frustrated, Weiss said, and this will create cracks in Microsoft’s empire – cracks which Linux is ready to fill.

“The basic driving force of Linux has been that Windows NT has been found to be very unstable under certain application environments and has been mainly tied to servers as one application per server. And many, many users are quite disgruntled about the stability factor, the upgrades, the security problems and other things they feel do not yet qualify Windows NT for a major enterprise role,” Weiss said.

And those users considering making the move to Linux would probably feel more comfortable with OpenLinux since Caldera has designed their system for this audience.

“Caldera, among the many distributions, is the one that seems to be most serious about making sure that the package, design and installation has broad market appeal, especially for small business,” Weiss said.

When he wants to convince people that Linux is not as difficult to use as they imagined, Evan Leibovitch, a partner at the value added reseller Starnix Inc., simply turns on Caldera’s OpenLinux system.

“It becomes quite clear that OpenLinux is as easy to use as anything else,” Leibovitch said.

Linux is Starnix’s mainstay as a business as well as the operating system that the company uses in-house.

What Leibovitch likes about Linux is its flexibility. “There’s nothing that can’t be done with Linux operating systems.”

But Weiss warns that Linux does have its problems and those stem from the very thing that gives Linux its strength – the fact that it is an open source system.

“Compatibility is a key concern that the enterprise community has with Linux,” Weiss said.

But this is something that Caldera claims its users don’t have to worry about. “Something that sets us apart from all the other distributions is the self-hosting that we do. We build the Linux kernel (and) we build all the libraries in a common build environment where sources and binaries match. So unlike the mixed bag that you might get by not buying OpenLinux, you’re not getting the library conflicts, you’re getting a proven, tested, stable and supported operating system,” said Erik Hughes, the director of product marketing at Caldera in Orem, Utah.

The latest version of OpenLinux comes with a new graphical installation routine, dubbed Lizard. Caldera claims that once users go through the setup program with Lizard, OpenLinux only takes 20 minutes to install.

And, according to Hughes, the Lizard interface means users don’t have to be quite as technically savvy as before to install Linux.

“There’s a lot of auto probing that goes on – with old installations, you used to have to know a lot about your machine, and Lizard will automatically find that information, like video card or sound card or keyboard and mouse detection,” Hughes said.

Caldera’s latest release, which is built on the Linux 2.2.10 kernel, also includes the K Desktop Environment 1.1.1, the latest release of Caldera’s desktop interface which allows users to fashion their desktop in the format they prefer.

Version 2.3 also includes Sun Microsystem Inc.’s StarOffice 5.1 suite, ApplixWare 4.4.2 Office Suite and WordPerfect 8 for Linux.

Despite the availability of more user-friendly versions of the Linux operating system, however, Weiss still thinks that Linux has an uphill battle to fight. “The critical mass and inertia that Windows established with all the integration and software and other things is a very powerful and significant obstacle to overcome,” he said.

OpenLinux 2.3 ( is US$49.95 and upgrades from OpenLinux 2.2 are US$19.95.

Caldera Systems in Orem, Utah is at (801) 765-4999.

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