April 9, 2002

The now and future of Xandros: Second beta of Linux desktop OS due out shortly

- By Dan Berkes -
It could have been an April fool's prank, or it could have been idle e-mail rumor-mongering, or it could have been any one of a few dozen other ways these things get passed around. But Xandros president Michael Bego would like you to know that what you may have heard about his company probably isn't true.
To answer the first and most persistent rumor, Bego has not left the helm of his fledgling Linux company. He said as much when I spoke to him, and I was willing to take his word for it, especially when the caller ID box flashed the name of his company when he called me.

As for the second story going around, no one has been laid off from the engineering staff, or any other Xandros division for that matter. "We did have five interns that left us at the end of the semester," Bego says, "but that's out of 42 employees total in the engineering staff.

"In fact, in all the time that we've given out internships, only one person has ever turned us down. In the entire history of Xandros, not one employee has ever left us -- ever. We've got a really good team here, and everyone is really excited about the products they've created."

Filing those rumors in the overstuffed folder marked, "unsubstantiated," I figured now was a good of a time as any to ask the Xandros CEO what's really going on at his company.

The Xandros corporate story starts in the first half of 2001 when Corel announced it was getting out of the Linux distribution business. Linux Global Partners negotiated a licensing deal with Corel that granted the new company the rights to develop and market Linux distributions and other products based upon the software formerly known as Corel Linux.

Linux Global Partners sent off their new licensing agreement in style, opening up new Ottawa offices a stone's throw from the Corel corporate bunkers, handing over $10 million in corporate backing, and blessing their creation with a new name: Xandros. Ever since that day, the Xandros engineers and a small army of beta testers have been working together to forge a very user-friendly Linux distribution.

Bego is audibly excited about the future of Xandros' first product, Xandros Desktop. "When we announced the beta test in January, we had over 2,000 applications for 150 beta slots," he says. The first beta culled the most technologically savvy applicants to pick apart the installation aspects of the new distribution.

Bego says, "That was done because our first and primary goal was to nail down the installer, and we've done that. We've got a fantastic installation system that goes back to the ability to install with just four clicks of your mouse from the Corel product, we've got fantastic hardware detection."

Should the more technical members of the Linux market feel excluded from all the fun, Bego reassures us that there will be something for everyone in Xandros Desktop: "We've made it easy for the non-technical users, but it will cater just as equally to advanced Linux users."

And Xandros is certainly not afraid of following industry trends, including the current push to bring Windows applications to the Linux desktop through the use of the Open Source WINE project or a few proprietary emulation programs. Bego confirmed that Xandros Desktop would indeed include a few enhanced bits and pieces of that nature, provided by an as-yet-be-named business partner.

The second beta, which may include that capability along with a few other features that need testing, is due to be released near the end of this month. Bego says Xandros is still on track for the 1.0 release of Xandros Desktop at the end of May.

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