Xandros unveils desktop Linux OS on eve of Vista launch

Linux vendor Xandros Inc. Tuesday unveiled its latest Xandros Desktop Professional Version 4 of its enterprise Linux operating system, which debuts just before Microsoft Corp. launches the enterprise version of Windows Vista.

Xandros Desktop Professional 4, which retails for US$99.99 and is available in a boxed version or as a download, includes Bluetooth wireless support, desktop search, ISV support and advanced 3D desktop graphics effects. The new OS maintains what Xandros said is seamless compatibility with Windows, Linux and Unix networks, including Windows domain authentication — plus support for logon scripts, group policy profiles and Microsoft Exchange.

Xandros CEO Andreas Typaldos said in a statement that Linux continues “to make inroads in the enterprise as Windows replacements,” meaning companies must figure out how to manage disparate systems in mixed Windows and Linux networks. “Today, most companies utilize a silo-based approach by managing Windows and various Linux versions separately, each with their own administrators and toolsets.”

But Xandros’ latest release is designed to help companies “manage their mixed environments holistically” with tools that deliver seamless integration and help simplify the management of the mixed network environment as if it were homogeneous, he said. “Our new desktop release does just that with its enhanced network integration, Windows application and file compatibility and mass-deployment capabilities using the Xandros Deployment Server.”

The operating system is being pushed as a low-cost, full-featured alternative to Windows — a strategy the company has been pursuing for several years with mixed results, based on its small market share.

Dana Gardner, an analyst with Interarbor Solutions LLC in Gilford, N.H., said Xandros is one of several Linux distributions that remains very much on the fringe in terms of usage. But opportunities exist, he said, if smaller Linux vendors team up with partners that could help make their products more popular. Deals with service providers, such as Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services and telecom providers, could add the operating system into the mix and create a product useful for many users

“I think the next step for these desktop distributions is to find those kinds of partners,” Gardner said.

Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said the problem Xandros and other small Linux vendors face is that desktop Linux still has not caught on as its advocates have hoped. “At this point, I don’t think Linux is ever going to be as important as a traditional Windows-like fat-client operating system,” Haff said. “Yes, there will be people who want it and it may even gain market share,” but it won’t overtake Windows in the marketplace.

“There aren’t the applications, there aren’t the drivers” to make Linux a simple drop-in replacement for Windows in all uses. Haff said Linux could be successful in augmenting Windows in thin-client systems, where users are less concerned about what operating system is being used.

Xandros Desktop Professional 4 integrates with existing Windows networks with support for full domain authentication, logon scripts, and group policy profiles. It also features access to shared Windows folders and printers, the ability to write to Windows NTFS disk partitions, connectivity with Microsoft Exchange, support for third-generation mobile technologies, support for thin clients and terminal emulation and support for dual-core, SMP and Hyper-Threading processors.

Also included is a full-featured Microsoft Office compatible productivity suite, as well as the latest version of CrossOver Linux, which enables users to run Microsoft Office 2003 and other Windows programs directly on Xandros. The OS uses the latest standards, including the Linux Standards Base (LSB) 3.1 and the OASIS OpenDocument format for global file compatibility. Portland 1.0 tools allow third-party software developers to integrate their applications regardless of the desktop deployed.

The Xandros Security Suite, which is included, offers home folder encryptions and secure VPN connections to protect business data.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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