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What’s under the Hat?

Red Hat’s departure from the desktop market means that users who like the company’s products will have to look elsewhere for inexpensive options. Here are some alternatives to consider.

Red Hat, the major Linux distributor in the United States, recently announced that it intends to leave the Linux desktop market. Red Hat will instead focus on the more profitable server and large-business market with its Red Hat Enterprise Linux product line.

This leaves a gap for the many users of Red Hat Linux who like the company’s products but cannot afford the more expensive Red Hat Enterprise Linux versions. To help ease this transition, Red Hat sponsors the Fedora Project, an open-source effort to continue the low-end Red Hat Linux, or something very much like it, without requiring Red Hat to support end-users or produce a product. Fedora is advertised as an attempt to provide early adopters with the latest versions of Linux packages, but it really seems to be more a way for Red Hat to gradually reduce the effort it puts into the low-end Linux version. While Red Hat may be leaving the desktop Linux market, other vendors are sure to fill in the gap.

SuSE has been the main competitor to Red Hat. Novell has announced its intentions to purchase SuSE, which should provide even more corporate backing for this major Linux player. SuSE’s desktop Linux products–SuSE Linux Personal and Professional–have long been highly recommended by Linux users.

Sun recently entered the Linux distribution market with its Sun Java Desktop product, which also includes the StarOffice 7 productivity suite.

MandrakeSoft offers the Mandrake Linux distribution, one of the highest-rated end-user desktop distributions. Mandrake’s Discovery 9.2 product provides a Linux distribution specifically aimed at first-time Linux users. aggressively targets the Windows desktop market with their LindowsOS product. Founded by pioneer Michael Robertson, has courted computer resellers such as Wal-Mart and offers a $169 PC bundle with Linux. drew Microsoft’s ire by tying in product sales that took place on the site to the $1.1 billion US California rebates gained in a class-action suit against Microsoft. In addition, founded in order to focus on defending Linux resellers in Europe.

Lycoris offers Desktop/LX, a version of Linux aimed at newcomers. Desktop/LX was designed with Windows users in mind; the operation system sports a beautiful user interface that in many ways appears similar to that of Windows.

Xandros purchased the rights to Corel LINUX OS, and has recently announced the Xandros Desktop version 2.0. Xandros has continued the tradition of Corel’s Linux efforts as one of the easiest distributions to install. Xandros’s Linux is based on the Debian distribution.

Altogether, desktop users have a plethora of choices.

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