Wednesday at Comdex Canada, Rebel.com will announce an all-in-one server appliance that will cost between $1,000 and $1,500. The systems will fit into Corel's plan to offer a novice-friendly version of Linux tailored for super-cheap computers, said Michael Whitehead, vice president of marketing at Rebel.com.
The NetWinder plans illustrate two divergent areas in which Linux has grown popular: inexpensive computers made even cheaper by avoiding the Microsoft Windows licensing fee, and "server appliances" designed to make it easy for people to set up their own networks.
Corel announced in March that it would create its own version of Linux designed for consumer devices, a plan that dovetails with its effort to bring its office productivity applications to Linux in the face of overpowering competition from Microsoft. The test version of the new operating system is scheduled to arrive in August at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, chief executive Michael Cowpland has said.
In February, Corel took a 25-percent stake in Rebel.com, formerly called Hardware Computing Canada, when the company took over Corel's NetWinder division.
The NetWinder computers are using Red Hat's Linux and are based on Intel's StrongARM chip, lauded for being powerful without requiring a lot of electricity. The NetWinders themselves are 9.5 inches tall and 2 inches wide, though rack-mountable versions also are available.
"Our plans are to stick with Red Hat for now," Whitehead said. Pressure from Corel to use Corel's new Linux version "would be natural, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.
The server appliances are aimed at homes and small businesses and will provide a variety of Internet-related services such as routing and storing email, protecting computer networks from attack, and hosting Web sites, he said. Rebel, including the 30 people it acquired when it took over NetWinder line from Corel, has been working on making the system as easy to use as possible, he said.
Rebel.com will try to sell its server appliances through relatively small Internet service providers, who will be able to make money by installing and supporting the machines as well as charging for the upstream connection to the Internet, said Rebel.com president Michael Mansfield.