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Walmart.com to sell more Linux software

NeTraverse says its Win4Lin 5.0 software, which lets users run Microsoft Windows applications on Linux-based PCs, is now available through the massive retail chain's Web site.

NeTraverse said Wednesday that its Win4Lin 5.0 software, which lets users run Microsoft Windows applications on Linux-based PCs, is now available from Walmart.com, the Web site of the massive retail chain.

Austin, Texas-based NeTraverse becomes one of only three Linux software distributors marketing products on Walmart.com. The others are Lindows and Lycoris. The site also carries a line of Linux-based PCs built by Microtel Computer Systems.

The Win4Lin 5.0 software lets users run their existing Windows applications on the Linux operating system, with the traditional Windows desktop environment accessible as an application, according to NeTraverse. It also lets Windows and Linux applications share the same file system and system resources.

"Giving users the ability to run their familiar Windows applications on pre-loaded, low-cost Linux PCs is a tremendous step forward in the adoption of Linux on the desktop," James Curtin, president and CEO of NeTraverse, said in a statement. "Users have been inhibited in adopting Linux on the desktop by the lack of applications available."

Executives from Linux PC maker Microtel were bullish on Walmart.com's decision to begin selling the Win4Lin software.

"Win4Lin is the product that extends the reach and appeal of Linux from power users all the way to moms on Main Street." said Rich Hindman, vice president of Microtel.

Some industry watchers believe the proliferation of Linux-based products such as Win4Lin 5.0 on mainstream online retail sites like that of Wal-Mart will be an important outlet for the open-source operating system. However, IDC analyst Al Gillen said such deals would not necessarily stimulate rapid adoption of the software by end users.

"Linux isn't growing by leaps and bounds based on these deals," Gillen said. "And getting exposure on Walmart.com won't be the silver bullet for driving Linux into the consumer space."

According to IDC's research, Linux represented less than 3 percent of the consumer client software sold in the United States in 2002, whereas Microsoft's Windows accounted for 94 percent, and Apple Computer's Mac OS captured more than 3 percent. Gillen said he expects Linux' market share numbers to grow in 2003, but he stopped short of saying the gain might be substantial.