Linux vendor Xandros Inc is lining up new business desktop and server releases for the coming months as it looks to establish itself as the Debian distribution of choice for the enterprise.
The New York-based Linux vendor has just release version 4 of its Xandros Desktop Home Edition products and is lining up a new Business Desktop version for the summer, to be followed by a new Advanced Server package in the first quarter of 2007.
The releases are part of an attempt by the company to establish itself as the Debian Linux vendor of choice for enterprises and true alternative to Red Hat Inc and Novell Inc. We want to be known as the enterprise Debian distribution, the commercial Debian, Pascal Lauria, Xandros director of sales for Europe, told ComputerWire.
Xandros’s desktop and server Linux products are based on the Debian GNU/Linux community-led Linux distribution project, as opposed to the RPM-based Red Hat and Novell. Despite its lack of marketing power, Debian has a large user base. In December 2005 Netcraft named it the fastest growing Linux distribution for web servers, giving it second sport overall behind Red Hat.
The challenge for Debian-based vendors is to convert that user base from the core Debian distribution to one of their packaged, supported environments. In order to do so, Xandros’s tactic has been to add ease of use features and Windows compatibility.
Debian is a complex environment, so you have to bring the practical aspect to it, said Lauria. Due to the fact that we came from the consumer market, from Corel, that’s our main difference to the other distributions.
Xandros was born via the acquisition of Corel Corp’s Linux assets in August 2001, and has maintained the consumer Home Edition products. According to Lauria, the fact that the former Corel development team remains in place means that the company has a more commercially aware approach to the desktop.
One of the reasons Linux distributions didn’t success so far is that they didn’t understand that Windows is the standard, he said of Microsoft’s usability features. The Windows logic is the standard way people expect.
Hence the company’s decision to make a Linux desktop that mimics Windows as far as is possible, including look and feel and file structure. That might not meet with the approval of open source purists, but it stands the company in good stead for what could be a major opportunity on the desktop.
There’s a growing interest on the desktop due to Vista and the fact that Novell has produced a nice new desktop. We benefit too, because if they [customers] are looking, they also look at us, he said.
While some Linux developers appear to be of the opinion that building a product that they consider to be better will be enough to convert existing Windows users, Xandros is convinced that providing compatibility with Windows is more important. Hence the focus on compatibility with Windows servers and Microsoft Exchange.
Hence, also, the recent deal with Versora Inc to provide the latter’s Versora’s Progression Desktop with its new Xandros Desktop distribution, enabling users to transfer their individual Windows settings to the Linux desktop environment.
The first distribution of that is available now in the Xandros Desktop Home Edition products, while a Business Edition of version 4 is expected this summer.
Meanwhile, new Advanced Server version of the Xandros Server is expected in the first quarter of 2007 targeted at enterprises and medium-sized businesses, and offering the ability to manage servers and desktops from a single console.
After a long delay, Xandros finally entered the Linux server market in May with the release of Xandros Server Standard Edition, targeted primarily at small-to-medium businesses, which for Xandros means those with five to 500 employees.
Xandros is not the only Debian-based Linux vendor on the market. Others include custom Linux provider Progeny Inc, desktop specialist Linspire Inc, and China’s Sun Wah Linux Ltd. The non-commercial Ubuntu project is also growing quickly and this month launched its first Long Term Support packaged aimed at large organization.
Although he admitted to respecting Ubuntu’s success, Lauria was skeptical about its potential as an enterprise challenger. Ubuntu did a great job, marketing-wise they are heroes, but they don’t yet have a business concept, he said.
Lauria also criticized Ubuntu for steering clear of the DCC Alliance, which was formed in August 2005 by Progeny, Linspire, Xandros, and Sun Wah, along with credativ GmbH, the gnuLinEx project of the regional government of Extremadura, Spain, the Knoppix Live CD Linux project, custom Linux solutions firm Mepis LLC, and Bruce Perens’ UserLinux project.
The DCC Alliance saw all these companies committing to use the DCC Common Core as the basis for their own Linux products and services, but did not get the support of Ubuntu.
The thing with Ubuntu is that they’re their own religion, he said. Ubuntu’s a great thing because it helps Debian get bigger, and I’m looking forward to the day they join the DCC Alliance. And if they want to do business, I would consider them serious competition.