(Yet Another) Interview with Xandros’ Michael Bego

This interview took place just a few months ago, but for some reason we didn’t got around in publishing it. (oops… 🙂 Some things have changed since the interview took place, but most of the information presented there is still valid. Read more for the interview with Xandros‘ VP, Mr. Michael A. Bego.1. What’s left before you’re release?
Michael Bego: Right now we’re focusing on the Betas. Beta 1 s coming out in the next couple of weeks. With this we’re concentrating on various aspects of the installer. Coming out later will be Beta 2, and that will focus on usability. To make sure that it’s a complete solution. For Beta 1 we’ll need a more technical group of testers with a variety of hardware setups, people who are proficient in testing systems to make sure that Xandros functions and that it connects with all the hardware. Beta 2 will have a much more diverse group of testers from all around the community. They’ll focus on usability and suitability of our product.

2. Corel Linux really seemed to be modeling directly for a Windows user. Are you still doing this?
Michael Bego: Yes, certainly, we’re looking directly at the 99% of desktop users that are familiar with the Windows desktop, the look & feel. First we want to attract them to the alternative and then we can gradually introduce them to the neat benefits of Linux.

3. Can a Linux publisher offer the polish of Windows or Mac applications?
Michael Bego: It’s important in the final product, we are bundling so many apps some that are small and transparent to sound drivers to our productivity office. I think that there is a critical mass of technology available. The tools that you need to make a viable desktop are now available. Xandros is planning to take advantage of this opportunity.

4. What office suite are you planning to include with Xandros 1.0?
Michael Bego: We’ll announce that in six weeks or so.

5. Have you decided yet on the office suite? Or are you still determining what the best fit is?
Michael Bego: I can’t really say at this time. We’ll leave that until the announcement.

6: How big is Xandros right now?
Michael Bego: We have over 40 developers in house. Some work is contracted out. The Xandros company is under 50 people. It’s great to have the Corel team. They’ve done it before and they’ve done it successfully.

7. What challenges are you facing?
Michael Bego: A huge thing is public awareness and general acceptance of Windows alternatives. For years Linux was a great technology but people were timid to use it. As Linux has done in the server market, Xandros plans to do the same for Linux credibility in the desktop market.

8. What’s the first thing that Xandros has to do?
Michael Bego: What Linux hasn’t really done yet, is reach the IT managers. The ones that are making the buying decisions. Linux isn’t on their list yet. With the release of our 1.0 we would like to get a couple of huge accounts so that we can point to some case studies. Getting people to actually use the product when it comes out is the first obstacle.

9. How do you plan to do this?
Michael Bego: Our biggest job right now is keeping our heads down and getting the product done. making sure that it is thorough and complete and making certain that Xandros is a Windows alternative. There’s a lot of interest in Linux as a credible Windows alternative. Now we want to get some market traction.

10. Linux has had problems getting a valuable OEM foothold? Is this in your plans?
Michael Bego: We are absolutely establishing and developing OEM relationships. You can certainly see how important it is to companies like IBM who want to regain control over their products to break the Microsoft lock. There are different types of OEMs, some really focused on assembly and distribution aren’t looking for change, or aren’t interested in becoming the driving force, but have stated that they will jump on the bandwagon when it starts to grow.

11. Can Linux break into the Tier 1 OEM market?
Michael Bego: Yes, absolutely. Look at Linux on servers three years ago. No one would have been able to say that companies like IBM would be spending a $1Billion on promotion Linux or that it would be such a large player in this market.

12. Uphill battle?
Michael Bego: I’d say that it was an uphill battle in the server market, but we’ve already seen steady gains for Linux there and some in the desktop market. We can only accelerate from there.

13. Where does your confidence come from?
Michael Bego: Market and customer reaction. We’ve been getting 2 levels of feedback, some from previous users of Corel Linux to find out what was a hit or a miss in that structure. But also bringing people in and letting them go on a system to see what happens. Some usability testing will setup a series of tasks of 10 things that the user will have to accomplish, things that they would normally do on their PC. Some are already obvious to the user and some need to be modified a little. You’d be surprised at how easy the transition could be. I loaned by laptop to someone several months ago and they were working on it for 20 minutes or so before they even realized that it wasn’t Windows, that it was Xandros.

14. Can you sell the tech appeal of Linux to Windows customers?
Michael Bego: In the Linux world you have two approaches, make something different that presents all of the complexities, look at Gnome. They make changes that they like and are interested in. Or the other angle of making it easy to use, or easy to transition to from Windows. Maybe its’ the single user environment or the look and feel. Our goal isn’t to have technology that is 50% or 10% better than Windows, but a straight alternative. We aren’t trying to build a rocket to the moon or anything radical, it’s a very simple thing that we are trying to do here.

15. How will you know when this is done?
Michael Bego: Market traction. We measure it on a usability test of 1 to 100. And that number has been going up every week. We’ll know when we hit the 100 percent level.

16. It seems that MCSEs dominate the office tech support world. Can you sell them on something that they aren’t trained to use?
Michael Bego: Ideally, they won’t need to be familiar with anything else. We’re looking to make it exactly the same as Windows and MS products. It should be exactly what they are used to. The same should be true of our server product coming out this fall. It should be as familiar to a sysadmin as the MS equivalent.

17. Is Linux going to be able to make distributors and resellers money the way Windows has?
Michael Bego: Yes. And Linux will be able go places that Windows can’t. PC’s have been limited primarily to the desktop and some cases don’t have the power to support that desktop, let alone extend it’s range beyond PC function. Soon the PC can also become your set top box, Tivo is very popular and already based on Linux, or your high-fidelity stereo. MS products not quite stable or powerful enough to do all this, while Linux is very capable of SMP and resource sharing.

18. Xandros is based on Debian GNU/Linux, do you have a relationship with Debian?
Michael Bego: We have a working relationship with Debian, and we’re hoping to beef it up. At the moment we’re very focused on finishing our first release.

19. Will you be open-sourcing Xandros?
Michael Bego: We’ll be releasing some of our code, but in order to continually fund R&D we won’t be releasing all of our code.

20. Newsgroups and other success of Corel?
Michael Bego: We’ll definitely be setting this up. Corel had two million users and won important awards. Continuing the success of Corel is very important to us.


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