Interview with Xandros Vice President Michael Bego

OSNews today hosts a very interesting interview with Xandros‘ Vice President Michael A. Bego, discussing about the new Xandros Desktop and Server 1.0, the Linux market, Microsoft and a lot more. Read more to also see a full size screenshot of the Xandros Desktop too.1. Please tell us about the interoperability between Xandros Desktop 1.0 and Xandros Server 1.0. How similar and how different the two products are? Please describe to us their pricing schemes as well.

Michael Bego: Xandros Desktop is designed to be an end user operating system. By being an end user operating system, it naturally comes with an easy to use graphical user interface for users to navigate through and operate on the desktop environment.

Xandros Server, however, can be operated with or without an graphical user interface and it can be run “headlessly”. Both Xandros Desktop and Xandros Server can be remotely managed and administered from any web browser using our DaVinci (product code name) remote management tools that will be shipping with the server product.

Xandros Server will also come with many ready to use DaVinci plugin components that will allow an administrator to setup and perform all the common server services (e.g. Apache, FTP, DNS, DHCP, … etc.). Both products can receive enhancements and security updates online via Xandros Networks with a simple one mouse click.

Xandros Desktop - Click for a larger view

2. In what ways Xandros Desktop’s KDE differs from a stock/default KDE installation? What tools/features Xandros have added/modified? In what way the default KDE UI was modified?

Michael Bego: We have touched almost every single KDE app that we are shipping. For KDE apps, we have concentrated mostly in fixing usability problems, app crashes, or features that just do not work or are missing. Up to today, we have discovered and fixed well over 1000 of these bugs/enhancements in KDE. In a way, our enhanced KDE Desktop is more stable and more user friendly than the stock KDE
from an average user’s view point. On top of that, we have added our own Xandros File Manager which, in our opinion, will cater better to someone that is an average Windows users. We have also added several control panel modules that will make an end user’s configuration experience much
simpler and smoother than the competition as ours are all tightly integrated with the KDE Control Center. In most other distros, the end user are usually very confused as they have to do their configuration from two to three different tools. There are also many other features that we have added to Xandros Desktop 1.0 – User Switching and Time Based User Login Control are just a couple that come to mind.

KDE has always been an excellent desktop choice. However, it is always lacking the tight integration with the underlying operating system since KDE is designed to run on almost any favours of UNIX. We, at Xandros, have completed this tight integration so any low level operating systems events will be handled nicely with our enhancements. For example, by plugging an USB storage device into the USB port, the device will immediately be available in the Xandros File Manager.
The user can then manipulate the files on the USB storage device use the same drag and drop technique that one uses on hard drives.

Xandros Networks is another great application/service that will be available in the final version. It allows an end user to obtain feature enhancements, bug fixes, and receives the latest Xandros news all online via a single mouse click.

3. Xandros is based on Corel’s Linux, which is based on Debian. Will Xandros also support RPMs, in addition to apt-get, or will you introduce a new or modified packaging system?

Michael Bego: In addition to supporting apt-get for the way in which seems to handle dependencies so effectively, Xandros Desktop 1.0 will also support RPMs given the wide variety of packages that use them. We feel that as ISV’s, consumers, and corporations catch on to the many the strengths of Debian and apt-get, that it will continue to enjoy growing popularity.

At the same time, I believe that at this stage, all competition is a good thing:

The market for desktop operating systems and applications was well over $10 Billion in 2001 and has been increasing over 10% a year. While Microsoft has done a fantastic job at meeting the needs for many, we are in contact with hundreds of thousands who have not fit into the mold that Microsoft made for them.

Given the size of this market we do not really feel that we are competing with anyone at the moment. The march of Linux onto the desktop has been similar to an expedition in the wilderness. There is an enormous space that we are going into and the more explorers, the better.

Even today, with our substantial successes, most people’s eyes begin to glaze over when you start to talk about Linux, let alone the desktop. I’m sure there were many obituaries written about Columbus as he set sail. The more people that you have saying the Earth is not flat, the more you will be able convince to travel to a New Land. The more that make the change, the better off they all are. We hope that millions will soon set sail for Xandros.

(It’s probably also good to point out here that I don’t consider myself to be some famous explorer, though I’m sure people will look back on people like Linus as one).

4. Xandros’ two big competitors in the “Linux desktop” market, are Lycoris and Lindows. Lycoris recently unveiled IRIS, while Lindows uses its own packaging application, ClickNRun. Will Xandros offer something similar for a fee or for free?

Michael Bego: First of all, it is important to point out that we do not see them as competition. However, our Xandros File Manager and Xandros Networks coming out in Xandros Desktop 1.0 will be above and beyond what the anyone else is offering by a long shot. We will also be making some key feature updates exclusively on Xandros Networks only for our subscribers. These services will be made available for free to Xandros customers.

5. Reportedly, Linux only holds 0.4% of the computer market, and only a part of this 0.4% is actually consisted by desktop-seeking users. One of the most influencial developers in the Linux community today and creator of the Enlightenment window environment, The Rasterman, said recently that Linux has lost the desktop battle to Microsoft, and all what’s left to fight for, is a
niche. What is your opinion on this? Can the tables turn?

Michael Bego: Microsoft certainly has won their share of battles, but if there’s only a niche left, from what we can tell at Xandros, it’s ENORMOUS! Linux and the Xandros Desktop are developing at a significantly faster pace than Windows is and that’s not going to change any time soon. Furthermore, general of acceptance of Linux and Xandros is growing by leaps and bounds. This will further make Linux and
Xandros viable solution as the various ISV’s, system integrators, and VARs pick us up as well.

It’s also important to point out that we aren’t trying to compete with Microsoft or replace them.

Depending on who’s numbers you go by, Linux has somewhere between 0.4% and 5% of the market. We hope to substantiate the market size better shortly with registered Xandros users (note that we also hope that the other Linux desktop players are equally successful. We consider each and every one very helpful to the cause).

6. In a recent interview you spoke of “a spectacular office suite” that will come with Xandros Desktop. Could you talk about it a bit more?

Michael Bego: I believe that quote came from an LGP spokesperson and did not pertain to Xandros.

We are very excited about our plans for the Office Suite and are planning an imminent announcement.

7. In your opinion, what the Top 5 points are, points that will need to be addressed by developers, in order to bring the Linux kernel and KDE/X11 closer to Joe Average User?

Michael Bego: In general, both the kernel and KDE group of developers have been doing an amazing job in keeping up with and leading the industry trends. KDE has been addressing the needs of most Linux/UNIX desktop users. Since many open source developers usually have their own specific development goals in mind, Xandros finishes the tight integration, QA cycles, and remaining tedious work that

One area that I would like to see addressed sooner rather than later is better ACPI support so things will work better on more modern laptops. Accessibility is another area that KDE can put more focus on.

All that said, we believe that we are very close to meeting Joe’s needs. See what our beta tester group has said so far:

8. We read that Xandros’ corporate goal is “to be among the first crop of profitable Linux companies”. How do you expect to do this? Could you explain to us briefly your business plan?

Michael Bego: I believe our goals as a for-profit company are very simple. We are developing an excellent solution to meet the growing needs of a very large market. While we do invest a great deal of effort in open source elements, we also realize the need to maintain ownership of some of our work. Xandros is basically pursuing a hybrid model that espouses the best of both worlds. It further applies this across an integrated suite of desktop and server platforms and applications. We gain from and contribute back to the open source community; and we maintain proprietary aspects so that we can make money from our software. This seems to be a trend in the industry that even Red Hat is catching on to.

9. What is your opinion about FreeBSD and MacOSX? Additionally, while older version of Windows were unstable, it seems that Microsoft has addressed most of these problems with WindowsXP and 2000. Do you perceive as true competitors other Linux distributions, or other OSes, like OSX and Windows?

Michael Bego: FreeBSD and MacOSX are both very powerful solutions and each has several elements that make them the world-class OS’s that they are. I believe that Linux-based distributions (and specifically Xandros) have a higher potential to succeed on the desktop for several reasons:

. Linux’s success in the server market creates an environment where Linux desktops can be more easily integrated and support in corporate environments
. Xandros and Linux have a higher critical mass of applications, competition and solutions for the desktop.
. I always felt that Apple had a tough proposition because they are not only competing against other OS’s but also all the hardware vendors (and their partners).
. Linux further has more attention, developers, and momentum behind it that all make it a safe bet.

An additional interview with Mr Bego, gone live also today, can be found at LinuxOrbit.


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