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Exclusive Interview with Corel Computer

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.)