Linux company to release key software

Eazel hopes its coming first final version of its Nautilus software will bring the company a step closer to winning over the average computer user.

Eazel, though acknowledging Linux still isn't good for the average user, hopes its coming first final version of its Nautilus software will bring it a step closer to the computer desktop.

Eazel will release Nautilus 1.0 as a free download this week, said Tom Goguen, director of product management at the Mountain View, Calif., company.

Nautilus, which lets users organize files and surf the Web, is the linchpin of Eazel's business plan. The software lets people connect to online services--some for which Eazel will charge--such as online storage space or computer system updates.

Eazel was launched last year by veterans of America Online and Apple Computer, companies with years of experience with computer users who don't have the technical expertise currently required to run Linux. Dell Computer has invested in Eazel, and Unix server giant Sun Microsystems will use the software as well.

"There definitely is a huge challenge getting to the consumer desktop," Goguen said. However, the gradual movement of programs that once ran on PCs that now run on Web sites makes Linux more useful to the average computer user, he added.

"The initial market always is technical users and developers," Goguen added. "From that, we'll gradually migrate into the commercial desktop environments."

One significant change to Nautilus 1.0 over earlier test versions is the addition of "text tools," which will allow computer users to take actions when they highlight words in a text document. For example, people will easily be able to submit that text to the Google Internet search site or to an online dictionary.

Currently, text tools works with text documents whose contents are viewed within Nautilus. Expected in coming weeks, though, will be the ability to use Nautilus to view Microsoft files, Goguen said.

To enable the Microsoft file-viewing features, Eazel is working with employees from Sun Microsystems' StarOffice group, which has a software suite that competes with Microsoft Office and works on Linux as well as Windows.

Other services could in Nautilus could, for example, send an image to a company that will make a print, Goguen said.

One issue Eazel must deal with in Linux is the split between two user interfaces, Gnome and KDE. Eazel works on Gnome and is set up to work with Red Hat's version of Linux.

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