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Corel to offer free Linux image editor

Mirroring its strategy with WordPerfect, Corel will offer the Linux version of its image editing software for free to keep from being squeezed out by Microsoft.

Mirroring its strategy with WordPerfect, Corel will offer the Linux version of its image editing software as a free download, the next stage in the company's strategy to keep from being squeezed out by Microsoft.

The Linux version of Photo-Paint 9 will be available in early summer, the company said, and other software in the Corel Graphics Suite will ship in late summer. In addition, the company has begun beta testing its WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux suite, a $109 package that will include a word processor, personal database, spreadsheet, presentation program and copy of Corel's version of the Linux operating system itself.

Mainstream software such as that from Corel is one of the key features required to transform Linux into a desktop operating system that mere mortals would be interested in using. Linux currently is popular in servers and among more technically savvy users.

Corel is banking that Linux will become a popular desktop operating system, an ambitious strategy aimed directly at Microsoft. On the Linux side, the competition also includes Sun Microsystems and Applix, which both already ship Linux office suites.

But Corel has a lead when it comes to graphics software for Linux. The biggest competitor is the Gimp, an open-source program that's distributed along with several versions of Linux. On the horizon, though, is software from graphics powerhouse Adobe, which has begun translating some of its software for Linux.

But for office software, Corel--which has better name recognition among average computer users than Sun or Applix--could be in a choice position if Linux does catch on for average users. And jumping from one type of computer to another isn't unprecedented: Microsoft's early success with its word processing software came through a version it sold for the Macintosh.

Corel received $3.2 million in revenue from Linux operating system sales in the six weeks of 1999 that the product was for sale, the company said, and expects to receive $20 million to $30 million from Linux products this year.

Corel Linux got CNET's Linux Centera boost from a recent agreement with the Linux Store, an Ebiz Enterprises subsidiary, which will install Corel Linux on its its Linux systems.

One difficulty Corel is grappling with is the merger with programming toolmaker Inprise. In the month since the announcement was made, Inprise stock is down about 30 percent to $9.63, and Corel is down about 21 percent to $15.13. And C. Robert Coates, chief executive of Management Insights, resigned from the Inprise board this week because of objections to the merger.

Coates, while not opposed to partnership with Corel, had a different vision of the future of Inprise: a company that would invest in subsidiaries, foster deals among them, and make money selling them or taking them public.