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Fortune: Whither the OS?

Jun 23, 2000, 11:21 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Mark Gimein)

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"All the way back in 1995, as Netscape's browser was flying on to PC desktops faster than any piece of software in history, Bill Gates was already thinking about the consequences this would have for Microsoft's operating system. The outlook wasn't good. From the records presented in the Microsoft case, Gates saw immediately that if Netscape got its browser installed on enough PCs, eventually it might develop its own OS and replace Microsoft Windows. In fact, it wouldn't matter if users were running Microsoft's operating system, Apple's, or anyone else's."

"Now jump ahead five years to 2000. A few weeks ago I visited the offices of Eazel, a Palo Alto company working on an easy to use version (or "flavor") of the Linux operating system. Eazel has lined up an all-star slate of programmers. Among them is Andy Hertzfeld, the pioneering designer of the Macintosh user interface. And indeed, the Linux desktop that Eazel is working on, "Nautilus," includes some real innovations in interface design that if you have any tendency at all to geek out on cool technologies will really make your day. For instance, when Nautilus sees you mouse over the icon of an MP3 file, it'll play the first few notes of the song. No applications to launch, no wait. It'll let you sort pictures, text documents or music files without ever worrying which folder you put them in. In fact, it'll let you slice and dice all the files on your hard drive without worrying at all about "folders" or "hierarchies."

"So, as the old late night infomercials might ask, how much would you pay for all these features? The answer of course is that you won't have to pay anything. Nautilus, like all Linux add-ons, will be distributed under an open source agreement. Trade it, copy it, modify it all you want and pay nothing. Eazel will make its money by selling users services over the Net, like software updates, backup, virus monitoring, instant installation of big programs, and any others that the company will dream up."

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