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Exclusive Interview with Corel Computer

Dec 14, 1998, 00:12 (49 Talkback[s])

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Corel Computer has recently made several announcements regarding their position with Linux. They will be supporting KDE on the NetWinder, have already announced two NetWinder models with many more flavors on the way, and have committed support to the WINE project.

Linux Today Editor Dave Whitinger spoke with Ron McNab (General Manager of the NetWinder division), Chris Hernberger (Product Manager), and Oliver Bendzsa (Communications Manager) about these developments.

Linux Today: Recently Corel announced that KDE will be the default desktop for the NetWinder. Will GNOME be available to customers who specifically request it?

Oliver: In general, it is Corel Computer's position to offer customers as much choice as possible. For example, the fact that we have a relationship with KDE does not prevent our customers from choosing another desktop from the wide range of choices available. As usual, we are promoting the use of Open Source software via the NetWinder.Org web site.

Ron: We are looking at GNOME. Our position is to be a general broad-based supporter of Linux. We would like to support GNOME, and I see no reason why we couldn't do both.

Chris: Corel Computer is committed to providing a) choice to its customers b) high quality, rigorously tested products to customers. Based on the reputation of GNOME and Red Hat it is very likely that this will be another option for our customers. However, KDE matches our development and release schedule and provides us a way to come to market quickly with a quality product. Based on our time estimates, Corel Computer intends to release its first desktop computers before GNOME has frozen its code.

Linux Today: Is Corel still committed to Red Hat's distribution?

Oliver: Corel Computer is very excited about its partnership with Red Hat and expects it will benefit both companies. The NetWinder is running a version (ARM) of Red Hat today and KDE was developed to run on this platform. KDE will be running on future versions of Red Hat, as they become available for the NetWinder.

Linux Today: Will Red Hat be giving you their distribution with KDE installed?

Oliver: Red Hat will supply us with new versions of their distribution of Linux which we may bundle with the NetWinder, use their name, logo, documentation, etc. Corel Computer will add KDE to its commercial desktop versions of the NetWinder family of products. The first product in the desktop family will be available soon under the name NetWinder LC, or Linux Computer.

Linux Today: Does Corel currently have engineers evaluating or using GNOME?

Chris: Certainly. The Corel Computer division has a number of talented Linux developers who are monitoring new software that may fit with the NetWinder. Additionally, Red Hat and Corel have announced a business partnership. Under this partnership Red Hat will port and maintain their distribution of Linux for the StrongARM processor.

You may wish to ask Red Hat if GNOME will become a standard part of the distribution. There are some assumptions that may be made depending on their answer.

(Editor's note: Red Hat has previously stated that GNOME will definitely become part of their standard distribution.)

Linux Today: Is Corel entertaining the idea of moving their default desktop to GNOME once it becomes "ready for prime time"?

Chris: It's too early to comment on this. Corel, as a public company, must make business decisions that meet the needs of its customers and shareholders. Any new product that is technically sound must be carefully evaluated and a business case made. Once market, technical and business issues are answered Corel can make public its plans.

Linux Today: Does Corel have any kind of formal agreement with KDE, or do you have the freedom to move to a new GUI Desktop immediately, should a deserving one become available?

Chris: Corel has struck a relationship with KDE that is open and non-exclusive. It is based on the sharing of ideas and Corel's return of its development work to the Open Source community. We'd like to support GNOME, and I see no reason why we couldn't do both.

Linux Today: Does Corel have plans to take advantage of the recent port of Debian GNU/Linux to the Netwinder? If yes, will that be the distribution you use with KDE?

Oliver: Debian is an excellent distribution and has many complementary software applications to the Red Hat distribution that is now shipping on the NetWinder. We hope advanced users will download and try the Debian distribution from NetWinder.Org and we hope when it becomes part of the commercial Debian release more customers will ask for it. Currently, the Debian organization does not support KDE. Additionally, we hope we may be able to support as many distributions as possible but Red Hat seems to be the one that best fits our business model at this time.

Linux Today: Why buy a NetWinder for $1,000 when you can put together a PC for a lot less?

Ron: It's a value-based proposition. It's a combination of the architecture, little size, put them in a network and manage them cheaply. PCs are a competitor, but not a dead-on competitor.

You can go with a PC, but you're going to have be subject to the kinds of problems that are inherent with the PC architecture. The NetWinder can be plugged in and have little maintenance costs.

Linux Today: We have seen six different NetWinder models announced...

Ron: The NetWinder has been a work in progress. The more we get into it, the more we find out that there is fabulous opportunity for additional models.

It can be a desktop, single computer, dual computer, multi-computer (currently up to 10). It scales beautifully. You can build NetWinders into a super-webserver and a super-E-Mail server, for example.

We're sitting here with the ability to get a wide range of products out very quickly, all based on our core technology.

Linux Today: Does Corel still have plans to help the WINE group out?

Chris: We have a team of developers actively participating in the development of WINE. We are working with the community and submitting code on a daily basis as well as participating in discussions aimed at accelerating the effort.

Linux Today: What do you expect out of WINE?

Chris: We are using WINE as part of our porting strategy to create a porting layer to make it easier for our Windows-based applications to port to Linux. We have a similar layer for our Mac products. While WINE can be used in an emulator-type mode where Windows binaries can be made to run on Linux, we are compiling the WINE libraries into our code in order to have a set of truly native Linux applications. Obviously, by putting all of this work back into the community, we're going to be helping not only the Linux community, but other ISVs who are thinking about moving their development efforts to Linux.

Linux Today: What changes do you see happening to WINE in the future?

Chris: I don't see any changes coming in the near future because the mandate is quite clear, and there's plenty of work on their plates as it is.

Linux Today: How many engineers will be allowed to work with the WINE group?

Chris: We don't comment on team sizes, but suffice to say that we view our Linux development as being extremely strategic, so the WINE effort carries a very high priority.

Linux Today: The new features of WordPerfect 9 sound really interesting, especially the speech recognition. How far behind the Windows release will we see a Linux port?

Chris: We anticipate the rollout of our WINE-based Linux products to be towards the end of next year. Once the rollout begins, future Linux versions will be only a month or two behind their Windows counterparts, and that, of course, applies to CorelDRAW and many other Corel applications.

Linux Today: Will WordPerfect always be freely available for personal use on the Linux platform?

Chris: Pricing has not yet been set for any version other than WordPerfect 8.

Linux Today: Has Corel ever given any thought to releasing WordPerfect as Open Source, as Mozilla and others have?

Chris: We fully support the notion of Open Source and a lot of thought is going into what we will be doing. Clearly, we are participating in WINE and as such, we are heavily contributing in the Open Source arena. Since our development strategy is to leverage as much code as possible across all the platforms, whether it is Windows, Mac, or Linux, there are some significant ramifications to Open Sourcing our applications--something not faced with Mozilla, given that the Windows counterpart is free for all intents and purposes. Having said that, the Linux landscape is changing rapidly, so the door is not entirely shut on Open Sourcing our applications (no pun intended.)