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7/7/2006
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Review: Can Xandros Linux Desktop Replace Windows Media Center Edition?

With its Linux desktop product, Xandros is focusing on a shortlist of features to push Microsoft off the desktop. Does it have what it takes?

Microsoft is currently fighting a virtual game of king of the hill with OS competitors attempting to claw their way to the high ground.

The latest challenger is Xandros, armed with its Linux-based desktop operating system Xandros Desktop Version 4 Home Edition Premium. With the Linux desktop product, Xandros is focusing on short list of features to push Microsoft off the desktop. Home Edition Premium is squarely targeted at the media-centric home user, a market that Microsoft has come to dominate with its Windows Media Center Edition (MCE).

With a retail price of less than $80, Xandros is hoping to dazzle prospective users with a rich feature set that eliminates the need to buy additional software. The company also is looking to leverage the delays behind Microsoft's Windows Vista Ultimate edition to bring something new to the public now, beating Microsoft's January 2007 target.

To truly see where Home Edition Premium fits into the market, it must be compared with Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.

Right off the bat, Xandros offers more in the form of bundled applications than either Vista product. For example, Xandros Desktop Version 4 Home Edition Premium includes an office suite, OpenOffice, and comes bundled with an antivirus product. On the Microsoft side of the equation, those would be considered add-on products.

Xandros also includes a plethora of software products to support what the typical user needs. E-mail can be supported via Thunderbird (or Evolution) and graphics editing capabilities come from GIMP, an open source alternative to Photoshop. Users also have the ability to work with video, MP3s, photos, digital cameras, music players, TV and video capture cards, and all of those capabilities are included right out of the box.

But perhaps the biggest threat to Microsoft comes in the form of four specific technologies included with Xandros Desktop Version 4 Home Edition Premium, namely Codeweavers CrossOver Office, KDE Desktop Windows Emulator, Xandros partition manager and the Versora migration tool.

CrossOver Office allows Linux users to run Windows applications without the Windows operating system. The product supports Windows applications such as Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes, Intuit Quicken, Adobe Photoshop, Filemaker, Microsoft Access and many others. CrossOver Office offers an installation wizard to ease the installation of native Windows applications into the Xandros environment. The product makes an excellent Band-Aid for those transitioning from Windows to Linux.


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