Debian and KDE open source development teams are planning a not-for-profit low-cost Linux desktop operating system for large enterprises and government.
As well as reflecting increased interest in Linux desktops, the move is aimed at countering what the two teams fear is a takeover of Linux by big business.
KDE is known for its graphical user interface (GUI) of the same name used for Unix and Linux desktop access, while Debian GNU/Linux is a widely used free Linux-based server operating system.
The proposed desktop, to be called UserLinux, will involve tighter integration of KDE's GUI with Debian's flavour of Linux.
Explaining the two companies' concerns, a white paper on Debian's UserLinux website claims: "Today's Enterprise Linux is a lock-in play, designed to draw the customer into expensive subscriptions and single-vendor service.
"The economics of open source work worst for commercial Linux distributions. They are attempting to generate profit from a product they don't own, and to which they can't add much value without departing from the factors that make Linux desirable."
Debian and KDE are hoping that some large enterprises will provide funding to allow UserLinux to be fully supported for a low subscription price.
When completed in 2004, this will compete with Sun's Java Desktop System and Novell's Ximian 2 desktop, which both favour the Gnome GUI developed by Ximian.
Confusing the picture further is Xandros' Desktop 2, released this week for under $40, based on Debian Linux and using an enhanced KDE GUI.
Such market fragmentation may help keep prices low but may also confuse those thinking of switching from Windows, which currently holds around 95 per cent of the desktop market.
Features of UserLinux include:
- KDE Kiosk, a lock-down mode to restrict desktop, application, internet access and printing actions to allow it to be used in kiosks
- An administration tool to provide scalable management of desktop users' settings and IT privileges
- Integrated terminal server and client using an efficient compression technology to enable smooth desktop-to-remote server application operation
- A UserLinux installer, probably a port of existing Ark Linux installer front end, to work with Debian technology such as Debian-Installer.
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