Corel Corp.s announcement last week that it will sell off its Linux desktop distribution unit will have little impact on the open-source community.
Linux users contacted last week said they will not miss Corels Linux desktop distribution, particularly as updated environments are expected in the next two months from both KDE (K Desktop Environment) and GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment).
KDE and GNOME are separate collaborative projects being worked on by thousands of developers worldwide to create a sophisticated, customizable and stable Linux desktop environment. The hope is to make Linux a viable desktop competitor to Windows and Mac OS.
The additional features and functionality in these environments will ensure that the latest packaged Linux desktop offerings from commercial vendors will eclipse anything Corel would have been able to offer, said KDE core developer Kurt Granroth.
A longtime Linux desktop user in San Francisco said that Corel was not focused or committed enough to its desktop operating system, which showed in the product. “Corels plans in the Linux arena were too ambitious, and it tried to do too much with too few resources,” said the user, who requested anonymity. “This was evident in an increasingly shoddy desktop OS.”
Corel CEO Derek Burney last week said the desktop operating system constituted just 14 percent of the companys business. “The desktop division has the potential to hinder the companys growth and needs to be spun off and allowed to expand outside the company,” Burney said.
Granroth said that Corels withdrawal from the desktop market was unlikely to make a real difference. “It never really contributed to the desktop or open-source community in any meaningful way,” he said.
Jamin Gray, a St. Louis programmer involved in the GNOME project, agreed that Corels decision was “by no means a killer blow to the future of the Linux desktop.”
“If Corel had concentrated on developing the WordPerfect Office suite and CorelDraw rather than on their own Linux distribution, theyd be in a better position right now,” Gray said.
The KDE and GNOME projects are moving at “a blistering pace,” he said. GNOME plans to release three betas for GNOME 1.4 in a couple of weeks and ship the product toward the end of March.
“The biggest change in 1.4 will be the addition of the Nautilus architecture. Nautilus, as a file manager, will be much easier to use and also more powerful and very extensible,” Gray said.
Granroth said KDE 2.1 was set for release toward the middle of next month; KDE 2.0 was released last October. Version 2.1 will include features such as improved Secure Sockets Layer, HTML, Java and security support.
“These are both leagues ahead of what Corel was doing with its enhancements, effectively removing any advantage it might have had,” Granroth said.