Ximian Takes Aim at Corporate Front End

Updated installer, beefed-up e-mail capabilities earmarked for forthcoming release of evolution.

Key to the success of Red Hat Inc.'s desktop-user-inclusive Linux release is the out-of-the-box polish and completeness that will enable mainstream users to get right to work without an intervening layer of arcane configuration tasks.

Achieving this completeness, as Microsoft does with Windows and Apple does with Mac OS X, isn't easy, so it makes sense that Ximian Inc. focuses on delivering a corporate computing front end for Linux-one that supports five major Linux distributions and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris 8.

Ximian is readying its distribution of GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment), which is based on the GNOME 2.0 version that became available in June. The company did a good job smoothing the wrinkles in GNOME 1.4, and eWeek Labs expects Ximian to do the same with 2.0.

Installation-of software programs and of GNOME itself-is one area where Ximian's efforts have been particularly welcome. Ximian's Red Carpet installer service streamlines the task and is available in hosted and behind-the-firewall flavors.

The real star of Ximian's corporate-desktop-oriented lineup is Evolution, an open-source e-mail and calendaring application. Red Hat 8 ships with Evolution as its default mail client, and Sun has shown off Evolution as the centerpiece of its forthcoming desktop Linux offering. (Go to www.eweek.com/links for eWeek Labs' Dec. 31, 2001, review of Evolution.)

Beyond the effectiveness of Evolution as an e-mail client, one of the application's greatest virtues is its ability to interface with Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange through Ximian Connector, a proprietary add-on that Ximian sells starting at $69 per seat.

In extended tests of Evolution and Ximian Connector, we were impressed with the product's capabilities but experienced occasional stability problems with our Exchange server connections, particularly when using the calendar. We expect to see Evolution's next release before years end, and boosted stability should be among its improvements, along with faster search indexing and a more centralized place for reaching application settings.

Part of what makes Ximian's Evolution so attractive is the way, via the Exchange connector software, that it lets IT departments bring desktop Linux into peaceful coexistence with companies' Microsoft systems.

Moving forward, Ximians Mono project will enable similar integration with Microsoft's .Net initiative by providing Unix systems with a compiler for the C# language, as well as a run-time for Common Language Infrastructure and a set of class libraries.

Mono is now at Version 0.16, with most of its major components running on Linux. Details on the Mono project are available at go-mono.com.

Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.