Startup Replacing Linux Desktop With The Web

AjaxOS is a desktop application that will link a Linux-based computer to Web-based applications that mimic some of the most popular desktop software used today.
Startup Ajax13 Inc. is looking to do to Linux what Microsoft Corp. is doing to Windows -- dissolve the operating system into the Web.

Under the shadow of Microsoft's enormous task of making all of its desktop products available as Web services, the small San Diego company is getting ready to launch in a few weeks what it calls AjaxOS, a desktop application that would link a Linux-based computer to Web applications that mimic some of the most popular desktop software used today.

To date, Ajax13 has launched as services word processing and spreadsheet programs, an application for building graphs and charts, a music player and an editor for mixing video, music and photos. More Web services are coming, but the company won't say what they are or when. The technological backbone of the company's products is Ajax, a methodology in Web development that fuses JavaScript and XML to make highly functional Web services. Using this technology, Ajax13, like many other companies, including Microsoft, Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., can offer Web services that have the look and feel of desktop applications.

AjaxOS runs on Linspire, a desktop version of open source Linux developed by Linspire Inc. of San Diego. Entrepreneur Michael Robertson is chairman of Linspire and chief executive of Ajax13.

In a few weeks, Linspire users, which make up a sliver of the home computer market, would be able to either download AjaxOS from the Web or get it on CD. Once installed, the application makes all of Ajax13's Web services accessible as if they are running on the desktop, Jan Schwarz, president of the company said. Data could be stored locally on the computer or remotely over the Web. The company is negotiating with several potential storage providers, Schwarz said, but he refused to name them.

Ajax13's strategy follows what many in the industry see as an unstoppable trend -- the movement toward software as a service. Even Microsoft expects many of its own bulky applications that today sit on a home computer and have to be upgraded on a regular basis to eventually be replaced with Web services.

"We are very much focused on the push to the Internet-enabled PC," Schwarz said.

The current batch of Ajax13 services are only the beginning, and aren't expected to become major revenue generators, particularly since they're offered by far bigger players. Google, for example, recently bought Web word processor Writely.

Even AjaxOS is not seen as anything more than a product meant to serve a very small portion of the desktop computer market.

"We absolutely still have to push toward a very solid revenue model," Schwarz said.

For now, the company hopes to generate interest and notice with the services currently available. More are planned, and Schwarz promises the future products will be more unique and hold more revenue-generating potential. The company has yet to decide how it would charge for its applications. Possibilities include licensing the underlying technologies or offering subscriptions. Each of the company's individual services today is available at no charge to anyone with a Firefox Web browser, version 1.5 or higher.

Ajax13's funding primarily comes from Robertson. The company launched this year, but its technology was developed over the last three years by Chief Technology Officer Hisham El-Emam.

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