Is Corel Next To Hitch A Ride on Linux?

The day after Red Hat Inc. stock more than tripled on its initial Wall Street debut last week, Canadian software developer Corel Corp. said it expects its Linux revenue to skyrocket next year.

Corel announced that it was the latest company to hitch its future financial success on the free operating system by developing Corel Linux — to be released by the end of the year.

“Our goal was to create a Linux operating system that all users can install quickly and easily on the desktop,” said Michael Cowpland, Corel’s chief executive.

Linus Torvalds, a Finnish graduate student, who based the operating system on the Unix operating system, developed Linux in 1991 — making it available for free via the Internet. Since then, Linux has been gaining ground on Microsoft every year. According to International Data Corp., Linux shipments will grow 25 percent from 1999 through 2003 — more than twice the 10 percent to 12 percent growth of other workstation and server systems. Last year, IDC said, Linux was the fastest-growing server system, accounting for 17 percent of all shipments, compared with 36 percent for Windows NT, 24 percent for Novell Inc. and a little more than 17 percent for all Unix-based systems.

Desktop Linux?

But even though Linux’s growth has skyrocketed in the server market, it hasn’t permeated the desktop market where Windows is still the undisputed king. Analysts say that a lack of desktop software and the difficulty in loading the Linux operating onto a PC have been the two major obstacles impeding its growth in the consumer market.

But Corel hopes to remedy that situation by bundling Corel Linux with its upcoming WordPerfect Office for Linux suite. This product will be brought to market in early 2000.

Beefing Up Its Linux Site

Using the Linux World meeting in San Jose, California as a backdrop, Corel also announced that it is redesigning its Web site, designed specifically for Linux users. Corel said the site would make it easy for users of its Linux products to find information about the operating system. In addition, the site will encourage collaboration between Linux users by providing discussion and news groups.

A Shot In The Arm?

Last year, Corel lost more than $30 million (US$) from a revenue of $247 million. Corel, along with a legion of other struggling companies, is betting that Linux could be their ticket out of red ink — into profitability.

Nonetheless, most industry experts say it’s premature to embrace Linux as the magic bullet for the non-Windows segment of the technology industry. If anything, Red Hat’s success last week is still an anomaly.

But no one can fault companies like Corel for their enthusiasm. After all — right now — Linux is the only train accepting passengers.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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