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Tops on desktops

Linux has clearly arrived on the desktop, whether the world is ready for it or not.

While people debate whether Linux is ready for desktop use, IDG reports that Linux has surpassed MacOS in desktop system shipments. Linux has clearly arrived on the desktop, whether the world is ready for it or not.

While major Linux players such as Red Hat, Novell and Sun offer business-oriented desktop versions of Linux, most of the recent developments have come from a trio of smaller companies: Lycoris, Linspire and Xandros.

These companies focus on making a desktop version of Linux that is nearly indistinguishable from Windows. These are all attempts to make Linux systems look familiar to Windows users. Gone are traces of desktop environments like GNOME or KDE. Instead, users see My Computer, Network Neighborhood, and other Windows-like elements.

Many users run Linux mostly to get away from Windows, but these companies want to make Linux as familiar as possible to mainstream corporate computer users-that is, Windows users. To a large extent, this strategy has worked, and these companies appear to be thriving. In addition, a package called Crossover Office from CodeWeavers lets Linux users run many Windows applications, at a slight extra cost. With all this, many users simply cannot tell the difference. (Experienced computer users can usually spot variances from Windows.)

Lycoris shows its multicolored flower logo and a professional look all over its products and Web site. The look of Linux is very important to Lycoris, which includes enhanced font-rendering in an effort to improve a weak area of Linux. A special Desktop/LX Tablet Edition supports a number of tablet PCs. And, a work in progress runs on AMR-based PDAs, such as PocketPCs.

Lycoris Desktop/LX Personal costs $40 US, and the Desktop/LX PowerPak costs $75. The PowerPak version includes Crossover Office from CodeWeavers to run Windows applications. You can also purchase cheap PCs preloaded with Desktop/LX from Walmart.com.

Linspire, which accepted a good bit of money from Microsoft to switch its name from Lindows.com, has garnered a lot of publicity, something founder Michael Robertson is used to-he also founded mp3.com.

The main focus of Linspire lies in its ability to easily update the software. An online repository called Click-n-Run, or CNR, offers software downloads for Linspire systems. You need a CNR membership, though, running $4.95 a month or $49.95 a year. With most CNR applications, a single click starts an automatic download and installation process. This dramatically simplifies the experience faced by most users when they update their Linux software.

The base Linspire software costs $49.95. For $299, you can get a decently-configured PC running Linspire’s desktop Linux distributions from Sub300.com. The company also offers cheaper systems for libraries and similar organizations.

Xandros built its Linux distribution from the well-received Corel Linux. At one time, Corel made a big splash in the Linux market, porting WordPerfect, Corel Paint, and other applications to Linux. When Corel got out of the Linux market, Xandros took over the Linux distribution. In recent months, Xandros has focused on larger businesses, creating the Xandros Desktop Management Server to help deploy and manage desktop computers for large organizations.

The low-end Xandros Desktop OS Standard Edition costs $49. The Business Edition costs $129, but includes Crossover Office, the StarOffice office suite, as well as the ability to authenticate against Windows primary domain controllers or ActiveDirectory.

You can’t really go wrong with any of these products; it’s hard to argue with a Linux distribution aimed at desktop usage for a relatively low price.

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