Windows-friendly desktop Linux launches

Update to Xandros, dismissed by some in Linux community, includes features to read, write Windows-formatted drives.

The latest version of Xandros desktop Linux has arrived, continuing the operating system's mission to welcome Windows users--a mission that's led some in the Linux community to dismiss it as "Linux with training wheels."

Xandros 4.0, the first version of the operating system in 18 months, includes features to read and write Windows-formatted drives and import user settings from Windows installations. It's based on v3.1 ("sarge") of Debian, with improvements from the Linux Standard Base (LSB), thanks to the DCC Alliance's Common Core.

Xandros' distinctive feature is its effort to carve out a commercial niche as an easy replacement for Windows. "The target audience of Xandros is primarily corporates looking to switch their workstations from Windows NT/2000 to Linux," commented one user on a Debian discussion board. "They've gone to great lengths to mimic the look and feel of Windows for this reason."

The OS includes Paragon Software's NTFS for Linux, which allows users to read-write to Windows-formatted drives, so they can add the operating system and still have access to work they did in Windows.

It includes the WINE-based CrossOver Office from CodeWeavers, an emulator that allows users to run Windows applications. It also imports settings and data--including e-mail, photos, desktop sound and music--from Windows XP and other versions, using Versora's Progression Desktop.

For consumers, the basic Home Edition costs $39.99. To get full versions of the Windows immigration programs, users will have to pay $79.99 for a Premium version. Users of earlier Xandros versions can upgrade for less money. The Premium version also caters to iPod users, with a music manager based on amaroK, and includes a photo manager, improved wireless connectivity and better security.

A business version, Xandros Desktop Professional, is coming in September, with support for Active Directory, multiprocessing and hyperthreading support. It will also have a centralized control application for enterprises, called Xandros Desktop Management Suite.

The OS has the KDE 3.42 desktop interface, and the usual open-source applications Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice. At the other end of the scale, a free version, using only Xandros code and GPL code from others, is also planned.

Although several Linux desktops are bidding to replace Windows, they've made only small inroads. The Xandros team believes the way to change this is to start from where users are now.

"It's not intended for intermediate Linux users, or Linux users who enjoy the bleeding edge, customizing their OS, or learning all the intricacies of the powerful Linux operating system," commented one discussion board user. "It's for people who have work to do and want to get it done with as low a learning curve as possible."

Peter Judge of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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