Desktop Linux Receives Boost With Gnome

Extends graphical user environment

Vendors including Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Red Hat Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and VA Linux Systems Inc. joined at LinuxWorld in San Jose last week to form the Gnome Foundation and extend the Gnome graphical user environment for Linux into a full-blown competitor to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows and Office.

The fledgling organization announced that Sun's StarOffice productivity suite and the open-source Mozilla browser will become part of Gnome's Bonobo component architecture, which is based on the Common Object Request Broker Architecture. Gnome Foundation members said the availability of these components would help software vendors create Linux applications.

Longtime Linux user Mike Prince, vice president and CIO of Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. in Burlington, N.J., applauded the Gnome plans. "We've deployed a lot of Linux desktops [in stores], and the reason [for choosing it] was we wanted to deploy a stable, low-maintenance, reliable environment in sort of an industrial setting, and it proved to be all these things," said Prince. An improved Gnome would add "a great graphical environment" to that equation, said Prince.

Analysts said what Linux and Gnome really need to become serious competitors on the enterprise desktop PC are more applications, specifically, a software suite that offers perfect support for Microsoft Office file types.

"There still isn't 100% compatibility between StarOffice and Microsoft Office [documents]," said Al Gillen, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. "We do not expect to see Linux rise up and threaten Windows within our forecast period, which is through 2004."

But Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., said that because of their componentized architecture, Gnome and Linux may emerge as a strong presence on Internet appliances. They are unlikely to take over corporate desktops, said Quandt, but are likely to be successful in situations like point-of-sale terminals.

HP and Sun increased their support of Gnome by also saying they would adopt it as the default desktop environment for their versions of Unix, replacing the Common Desktop Environment.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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