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Eazel, creator of the Nautilus file manager, lays off 40 employees

Mar 14, 2001, 07:38 (42 Talkback[s])

By Kevin Reichard

In the wake of an economic environment that is providing increasingly hostile to Linux and Open Source, Eazel announced Tuesday that it had laid off 40 employees, leaving 35 employees to carry on the company's mission of creating a set of tools that would make Linux as easy to use as the Macintosh.

"What we're doing is getting our burn rate and business plan more in line with the more sober economic environment," Brian Croll, Eazel's vice president of marketing, told CNet News.com. He added that most of cuts occurred in the business and marketing departments, with few coming from the ranks of developers.

The layoffs came on the heels of the release of Eazel's first product, Nautilus 1.0, which was also released on Tuesday. Nautilus is a Linux-based file manager that offers an easier-to-use interface than other Linux tools and is slated to be the default file manager in the upcoming GNOME 1.4.

Based in Palo Alto, Cal., Eazel was founded by several veterans of Apple Computer and America Online -- including company co-founder Andy Hertzfeld, an original developer of the Macintosh at Apple -- to create a user interface that would put a friendlier face on Linux. Also involved in the company's founding was Michael Boich, who founded Apple's software evangelism group for the Macintosh and later co-founded Radius Inc., which grew to be a $300 million supplier of graphics hardware and software for the Macintosh. Also involved is Bud Tribble, manager of the original Macintosh software team and a creator of the Java programming language during a stint at Sun Microsystems, and Mike Homer, formerly a senior vice president at America Online.

Creating a wonderful user interface for Linux is one thing, but making money from it is another -- and it was unclear exactly how Eazel was (and is) planning on monetizing its product. At one point, Darin Adler of Eazel told LinuxPlanet's Michael Hall that the company would not rely of software sales as a revenue stream, but would rather offer services to Nautilus users.

"When it's software that needs to be added, we'll make free software," Adler says. "When it's services, we'll make services that involve Eazel, and that gives us an opportunity to make money." These will include software-management tools and outsourced storage; the subscription program will be initiated on April 30. Again, with several outsourced storage firms closing up shop in April (driveway, for example, left the consumer market for a corporate offering), it's unclear how much of a market there is for outsourced storage or subscription services.

While the company made some notable licensing deals with Dell, Sun Microsystems (which plans on replacing the venerable CDE desktop environment in Solaris with Nautilus and other Eazel tools), and Red Hat, it was widely known that the company was having problems raising a second round of financing, having used up its $15 million of initial funding led by Accel Partners. The second round has not yet been finalized.

This news follows several other high-profile layoffs in the Linux world, as VA Linux, Turbo Linux, SuSE, and Linuxgru ven all have announced cutbacks since the beginning of the year, while Corel has announced plans to shed its Linux distribution.

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