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Caldera unveils user-friendly Linux

The company's new OpenLinux 2.2 package is aimed at Windows users who want to try the upstart operating system on for size.

Caldera Systems released OpenLinux 2.2 today, a novice-friendly version of the upstart Unix-like operating system.

As previously reported, the two-CD package is aimed at Windows users who want to try Linux on for size. Using an embrace-and-extend strategy, Caldera Systems wrote an installation routine that starts within Windows, stays within a graphical user interface, and lets the user back out and uninstall Linux.

The result is a computer that can be set up to look like a machine running Windows, Mac OS, or even BeOS.

Making it easier to install and use Linux is essential, analysts say, but Linux fans now must deal with a computing realm dominated by Microsoft Office applications.

More than half of Linux sales now are to people with no Linux or Unix experience, Caldera Systems chief executive Ransome Love said in a recent interview.

OpenLinux 2.2, which retails for about $50, is aimed for desktop or basic server use. It will ship with Corel WordPerfect 8 and with StarDivision's StarOffice software, which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, graphics, and database software.

The early response has been strong. High download traffic today took Caldera Systems' Web site down, and the company was working to get it back up and running, spokeswoman Nancy Pomeroy said.

Caldera Systems will be the first major distributor to have a shipping product using the new 2.2.x version of the Linux kernel. It's an interesting development in light of the fact that Caldera is known for its relatively conservative stance with regard to upgrading core technology.

Caldera, for example, was the last of the major distributors to update another core software component from the older libc5 to the prevailing glibc2. While OpenLinux 2.2 will use glibc2, users will be able to continue to use libc5 and switch whenever they feel comfortable, Nielson said.

Caldera Systems' Linux distribution uses the KDE graphical user interface.

In coming months, the company will introduce server-specific versions of Linux.