The Free Software Foundation has started shipping the Gnome desktop environment for Linux, which it claims will enhance the open source operating system's appeal to consumers.
Gnome, which was introduced last week at LinuxWorld, provides an advanced developers' toolkit to build graphical user interfaces (GUIs), which are customisable and can be made to look like Windows 95 and 98 or the Macintosh. It will also become the standard GUI for Red Hat Linux.
According to Miguel De Icaza, chief executive of the Gnome initiative, the system will help Linux break out of its traditional techie circle and appeal to consumers, while assisting developers in writing applications more quickly.
Unlike Windows or the Mac OS, Linux does not have a standard GUI of its own, but provides a range of GUI libraries for developers. As a result, many applications ported from Unix environments have a Motif interface, although the most popular Linux GUI to date is the K Desktop Environment (KDE).
De Icaza said: 'KDE has technical deficiencies.' He added that it uses too much memory and does not include many features that developers would like.
However, Ransom Love, president and chief executive of Caldera - another leading Linux vendor - said: 'We don't see a pressing business need for this. There's a lot of momentum behind KDE.'
He added that Caldera could choose to support Gnome as an option on top of its existing KDE interface, depending on customer demand. Cliff Miller, chief executive of Caldera, said he hoped software developers would decide to group behind one standard desktop such as Gnome, because 'it would make life a lot easier'.
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