The upgrade addresses some of the technical difficulties that have deterred the non-experts from trying Linux, including a smoother feature for downloading fixes and updates and a more polished installation routine. The new version also is easier to administer, a feature aimed at corporate users who need to control lots of servers.
Red Hat was the first Linux company to go public, and analysts say it's the dominant player among those who sell the upstart operating system. Red Hat's founder, however, said the company's competitiveness is aimed at Microsoft, not other Linux sellers.
Red Hat's IPO is only one of several Linux-related public offerings in the works. Cobalt, which makes servers that use Linux, has filed its intent, and other companies, including Linux seller Caldera Systems and Linux computer maker VA Linux Systems, also have plans.
Additional features include an English version of Sun Microsystems' office suite Star Office 5.1a, which includes word processing, spreadsheets, email, graphics, Web publishing, scheduling, database, and management applications, the company said. Other new features include public key verification of the source of Red Hat Linux 6.1 updates, which are only available in the United States and Canada, as well as support for the Intel Pentium III processor.
Red Hat Linux 6.1 also provides customers with fast access to the latest software technology from Red Hat through the Red Hat Update Agent, an online customer service application for retrieval and management of software updates.
The Red Hat Linux 6.1 is available in a variety of pricing packages that range from $29.95 to $140.95, the Durham, North Carolina-based company said. All boxed packages include an installation manual and reference guide. Available in the United States and at international sites, the boxed versions can be purchased in select retail outlets starting October 18 and can be ordered directly from Red Hat's Web site.
The company said a standard package, which includes two system CDs, one StarOffice CD, 90 days of email support, and 30 days of priority online access, is priced at $29.95.
Businesses and Internet service providers can buy additional support package from Red Hat's service center, which range from limited to around-the-clock, unlimited customer support, the company said.