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New Red Hat Linux on the way

The company will announce its new Linux package Monday, a version of the OS that should be faster, more manageable, and probably more expensive.

Red Hat will announce its new Linux package Monday, a version of the Linux OS that should be faster, more manageable, and probably more expensive.

Version 6.0, code-named Starbuck, incorporates the new version 2.2 of the Linux kernel and will offer improved capabilities for multiprocessing. The CD version of the OS will also probably cost more than Red Hat's current flavor of Linux, said chief executive Robert Young. The product is expected to be available in stores May 10, he said.

The current version retails for $50. Young also said the new version will be downloadable for free.

The news follows Caldera Systems' newest Linux product, OpenLinux 2.2, which the company announced Monday.

Caldera Systems' newest product, which installs a graphical interface automatically, is aimed at Linux novices, a decidedly different market than Red Hat Linux. Young said Red Hat has been working forward to improve Linux for corporate servers.

Red Hat is the dominant Linux distributor, according to International Data Corporation. Young has said the company shipped 400,000 units in 1998.

Version 2.2 of the Linux kernel adds many improvements, but the biggest advantage is improved support for computers using many processors, Young said.

In addition, Red Hat, like the other Linux vendors who often draw from the same pool of programming talent, will benefit from the improved hardware support--more video cards and printers, for example, Young said.

Red Hat's marketing department is struggling with the issue of whether to package Linux for different markets, Young said. Pacific HiTech already has gone that route, and Caldera Systems is going that direction.

The fight over whose graphics interface should lie atop Linux is moot, Young said. Red Hat heavily backed the Gnome effort to improve the graphical user interface, but in version 6, Red Hat will include installation options for both Gnome and KDE. KDE is based on software libraries from Troll Tech that don't pass open source muster, but Troll Tech's next version of those libraries won't have those proprietary concerns, Young said.

Another change in the new version will be a remote installation utility that lets people install or upgrade Linux on remote servers via the network, Young said.

"It's an extremely important tool for network administrators who have the expertise to install or upgrade Linux, but who in many cases don't actually have access to the physical machine," Young said.

While Caldera and Corel have chosen to go the route of consumer versions of Linux, Young said that vision isn't practical because of demand for products such as Microsoft Office or Intuit's Quicken and TurboTax.

"What's driving desktop sales is all that software at CompUSA," Young said. "Unfortunately, all that software does not run on Linux yet."

Corel's strategy for that problem is to support the Wine effort to create software to let Windows programs run on Linux computers.

The Linux leader released the first version of the 2.2 kernel in January. Red Hat began beta testing Starbuck March 28.