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Xandros releases updated desktop Linux OS

But desktop Linux is still playing catch-up to Windows, analysts say

By Todd R. Weiss
November 28, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Linux vendor Xandros Inc. today unveiled its latest Xandros Desktop Professional Version 4 of its enterprise Linux operating system, which debuts two days before Microsoft Corp. launches the enterprise version of Windows Vista.

Xandros Desktop Professional 4, which retails for $99.99 and is available in a boxed version or as a download, includes Bluetooth wireless support, desktop search, independent software vendor support and advanced 3-D desktop graphics effects. The new operating system maintains what Xandros said is seamless compatibility with Windows, Linux and Unix networks, including Windows domain authentication -- plus support for log-on 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 tool sets."

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 at 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 services and telecommunications 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 at 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.

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