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Eazel's Linux software moves to Sun's Solaris

Sun Microsystems will use the new software that lets Linux users manage computer files, view documents, browse the Web, and tap into Eazel's online services.

Sun Microsystems has benefited from another effort to make Linux easier to use.

Eazel has been developing software called Nautilus that lets Linux users manage their computer files, view documents, browse the Web, and tap into Eazel's online services. On Monday, Sun said it will use Eazel for its own computers, which use the Solaris operating system instead of Linux.

In exchange, Sun will take several measures to help Mountain View, Calif.-based Eazel. It will promote Eazel's software, let Sun customers tap into some Eazel services, improve documentation, make Nautilus usable by non-English-speaking people, and add abilities to view StarOffice and Microsoft Office files within Nautilus.

Sun will incorporate Nautilus in the fall of 2001, Eazel spokesman Greg Wood said.

The deal is the second major partnership for Eazel. In November, Dell Computer invested in Eazel and said it would include Nautilus on its Linux machines.

The move is part of a gradual increase in Sun's interest in desktop software, a section of the market the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company formerly left chiefly to dominant Microsoft.

For years, Sun didn't bother much with desktop software, preferring to focus its marketing efforts on servers and small computing devices, where Microsoft doesn't have much of a stronghold. Instead, Sun focused on bypassing Windows by promoting Java, software that works regardless of whether a consumer's computer uses the Mac OS, Windows, Solaris or any other operating system.

But the popularity of Linux, a close relative of Sun's Solaris version of Unix, has meant more direct competition with Windows. Sun's acquisition of Star Division's StarOffice software, which runs on Linux, Solaris and Windows, has boosted Windows competition further.

One key part of the StarOffice software is that it can be used to view and import Microsoft Office files, by far the dominant format for word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs. That ability dovetails nicely with features in Nautilus that let a person view the contents of a file without actually opening it.

The schedule to ship Nautilus has slipped. Originally, the software was due in the summer of 2000, but now it's expected to be finished in January or February, Wood said.

Eazel services include online storage and easy software download and installation.

CNET's Linux Center Sun also has joined the Gnome Foundation, a group of companies promoting the Gnome desktop user interface for Linux. Nautilus runs atop Gnome, a software effort backed heavily by Red Hat, the top Linux seller and another Gnome Foundation member.

Sun's use of Nautilus is contingent on the upcoming version 2.0 of Gnome, Wood said.