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Ximian offers for-fee products, services

The Boston start-up, trying to benefit from the use of Linux on desktop computers, launches its first products and services that will start creating revenue for the company.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
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  Company reveals new Linux desktop
David Patrick, CEO, Ximian
Ximian, a company trying to benefit from the use of Linux on desktop computers, on Monday launched its first products and services that will start creating revenue for the Boston start-up.

Ximian launched two versions of a boxed product, Ximian Desktop, which includes the Gnome desktop interface and other software, a $29.95 basic version, and a $49.95 version with Sun Microsystems' StarOffice suite of programs.

The company announced individual and corporate versions of its Red Carpet service to automatically download and install updates to Linux and higher-level software. Though the existing free service launched in April will continue, Ximian now offers priority access for individuals paying $9.95 a month or corporations paying $150 a year, said Nat Friedman, co-founder and vice president of product development. Corporations, which also must pay a $2,500 setup fee, can customize the system to their particular software needs.

The products, combined with others to be introduced through early 2002, will be the basis for Ximian's push to achieve profitability, a goal the company hopes to reach in mid-2003, said Chief Executive David Patrick in an interview Monday. The company will focus on lining up customers in 2002, he said.

Ximian, while competing on Microsoft's desktop PC turf, is picking its battlegrounds carefully--aiming for technical consumers such as circuit designers, and specific-purpose PCs such as those for insurance claims processing, Friedman said.

"There was a wrong-headed idea that Linux would magically win broad-based adoption against the Windows desktop," Friedman said.

Linux, a clone of Unix now 10 years old, has caught on for use in servers, where administrators are technically adept. But Ximian, a 60-person start-up that employs Gnome founder Miguel de Icaza among others, hopes businesses and individuals will use Linux for desktop computers.

While Ximian's main foe is Microsoft, it also has competitors within the Linux ranks, potentially including Red Hat, whose Red Hat Network update service resembles Ximian's Red Carpet. But Red Hat focuses on servers rather than desktop computers.

Ximian's update service works with non-Red Hat versions of Linux and will work with some versions of Unix including Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX.

Ximian also is working to duplicate some parts of Microsoft's .Net software-as-a-service strategy.