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Linux as a simple desktop system?

Plus, a version of Linux that runs Windows applications.

Linux has always been known as a difficult system for the desktop. Applications aren’t standardized and each program seems to provide its own look and feel. Furthermore, standard business applications, such as Microsoft Office, are not available.

All of this has led to the perception that while Linux excels on the server, it is not ready for desktop usage, at least not for the majority of computer users.

But the bad old days seem gone for good.

Most Linux desktop applications follow one of two main look and feel standards, for either the KDE or the GNOME desktops. Furthermore, while Microsoft Office still isn’t available for Linux, you can get OpenOffice, StarOffice, Koffice, AbiWord, Gnumeric, and a host of other desktop suites and applications for Linux. And most of these applications are free.

Two recent efforts aim to make Linux even easier to use on the desktop. The Future Power AIO 17-inch Internet computer provides a Macintosh iMac-style package (computer and monitor in one box) that uses Linux on the desktop. This system is aimed at the new computer user.

The box uses OEone’s HomeBase 1 desktop software. Oddly enough, the HomeBase software is not built on top of any Linux desktop standard. Instead, it uses Mozilla, nominally a Web browser, to provide the desktop. Mozilla includes a configurable user interface, and the OEone folks created a stripped down desktop.

With the physical packaging, you have a much simpler install than standard desktops. Just plug in a few cables and you’re done. The AIO includes both a modem and a networking card, which means you can get on the Internet in no time.

On the software side, gone are the huge Start menus that new users find so daunting. The HomeBase desktop is simple and easy to navigate. The whole system breathes simplicity.

This is good news for users such as my father who feel intimidated by PCs. With the AIO, he would feel less intimidated, because the user interface is simpler. FuturePower makes the AIO unit, which is sold through OEone.

On another front, Lindows plans to sell a version of Linux designed to run Windows applications. The Lindows focus sticks to the main Windows applications, including Microsoft Office. The goal is to provide a Linux operating system that runs the Windows applications you need–and to break the Microsoft stranglehold on the operating system.

Taken together, these two products challenge the perception that Linux is not meant for the desktop.

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