Red Hat 8.0 To Launch This Month With Enhanced Linux Desktop

Themes, GNOME 2.0 UI enables Red Hat to take on Sun ONE Desktop on Linux

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As Sun Microsystems prepares to debut its next Sun ONE Desktop on Linux later this week, Linux leader Red Hat plans to show a more aggressive desktop bid with Red Hat Linux 8.0.

Red Hat 8.0, which was developed under the code name Limbo, will offer a spruced-up graphical user interface based on GNOME 2.0 with themes, improved buttons, scroll bars and menus, and updated applications including enhanced versions of the Mozilla 1.0.1 browser, Nautilus file manager, Open Office office suite and a new Evolution e-mail client, Red Hat said. The company expects to ship the package later this month.

"You will see a corporate desktop and a single-person desktop," said Erik Troan, senior director of product marketing for Red Hat Linux. "We cleaned up the look and feel with themes, and Red Hat developed a clean look and that is unified across KDE or GNOME applications. It will be announced reasonably soon."

Red Hat has never been a major advocate of Linux on the desktop, but version 8.0 will demonstrate a change of heart. The Raleigh, N.C.-based company, whose namesake Linux distribution is the de facto standard in the United States, maintains Linux is not geared for the typical consumer or business secretary but does have practical use for a select group of corporate and technical users, Troan said.

Red Hat won't attempt to unseat Windows and Office, but will aim for more targeted corporate segments such as call centers at financial institutions needing only Word and Excel spreadsheet, or a technical audience that uses one or two productivity applications, he said. Another segment would include users of technical workstations who can consolidate their high-end CAD/CAM and EDA applications and productivity applications on one desktop machine, rather than having separate Unix-based workstations and PCs.

"It's appropriate for certain types of desktops," such as a corporate desktop running one or two productivity applications or a technical workstation, where those people don't want to separate machines for running their Cadence on a Sun [workstation and another PC to run Windows or Mac," Troan said. "We think Linux will start gaining traction [on the desktop in the next six to 12 months."

Moves by Sun and Red Hat to push Linux on the desktop is good news for channel partners looking for a change from Microsoft's Windows OS, which now holds almost 95 percent market share.

Linux solution providers claim that Microsoft's unpopular Licensing 6.0 policies and now serious desktop endorsements by Sun and Red Hat will help accelerate Linux adoption on the desktop.

While Linux is the fastest-growing operating system on the server side, it has a mountain to climb on the desktop, where Microsoft now owns more than 93 percent market share. According to IDC, Microsoft's Windows increased its share of the client operating environment by 1 percent in 2001 from about 92 percent in 2000. In the same time frame, Apple saw its share decline to slightly more than 3 percent share, and Linux grew to just less than 2.5 percent share. All of the other client operating environment competitors saw their combined share drop to just under 1.5 percent share in 2001.

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