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Dell Seeks to Make it Easy with Eazel

Dec 01, 2000, 21:05 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Lou Grinzo)

By Lou Grinzo, LinuxProgramming.com

As reported, Dell has reached an agreement with Eazel to include their Nautilus shell and Eazel Services on all Dell computers that ship with Linux preloaded, which includes all client-side systems. Additionally, Dell has made an equity investment in Eazel of an undisclosed amount.

A Dell representative said that Eazel's software would begin shipping on Dell computers when GNOME 1.4 is available.

Brian Croll, Eazel's VP of Marketing, stressed that this is a very important step for their services model in part because the software itself is open source. By having Dell's assurance that the entire package will be installed and set up properly, Eazel knows that users of all skill levels will be able to use it right out of the box. Croll likened Eazel Services to a Palm VII wireless PDA, saying that, "it only comes alive when it's connected."

The two services, which will be accessed via a "Services" menu in the Nautilus shell, will be the Eazel Software Catalog and Eazel Online Storage. The Eazel Software Catalog will let users find and download either initial installations or upgrades of open source software, and it will maintain the user's system in a coherent state, taking into account and resolving library versions. Croll observed that one of the major problems with desktop and laptop computers today is the amount of time and skill it takes to maintain them, and that the Eazel Software Catalog is intended to automate that process as much as possible .

Eazel Online Storage will provide users with 25MB of online storage, accessible from any browser, similar to that offered by Xdrive and Driveway.

Initially the Eazel Services will be free, but they will be enhanced in the Spring of 2001 and offered on a paid subscription basis, a situation Croll characterized as, "Give us X dollars a month, and we'll take the system management monkey off your back." The Eazel Software Catalog will be expanded to include alerts when new versions of installed software or security updates become available. The Software Catalog might be used as a delivery vehicle for non-open, commercial software, as well.

Eazel Online Storage will be enhanced to include a user interface that will back up and restore parts of the user's system to their Internet-based storage. Croll pointed out that there's an interesting synergy between the two services once they're enhanced, since they will combine to let users make snapshot backups of their system and then revert to a prior state. This mirrors another aspect of Eazel Services' plan that Croll commented on, that many of the pieces for better and more automated system management have been around for some time, but that until now no one company or project has put the pieces together into a coherent and usable whole.

When asked about pricing for their subscription services, Eazel said they're still considering options, but that their goal is to keep it low enough to make the service "ubiquitous".

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