Feb 3, 2024 10:00 EST
with 5 comments
The past couple of weekends, we have been reflecting on the alternative PC operating systems that aimed but failed to rival Microsoft’s Windows. The user interfaces for both were similar to Windows 95-98. BeOS, one of these systems, was developed entirely from scratch, while Lindows used Linux as its foundation.
Both BeOS and Lindows were products of start-up ventures. However, another contender to the Windows OS in the late 1990s and early 2000s came from a well-established software company, Corel.
Established in Canada in 1985, Corel had a successful early product with the graphics editor, CorelDRAW. In January 1996, Corel made the decision to acquire the WordPerfect word processor program from Novell in a transaction that totalled $180 million at that time.
A Deseret News report about the deal indicated that Corel’s acquisition of WordPerfect rapidly turned the company into the world’s second-largest software firm, trailing only Microsoft. Michael Cowpland, Corel’s Chairman, expressed his aspirations for the company to compete with Microsoft in the consumer internet’s infancy.
The Internet is not dominated by Microsoft, allowing companies like ours to seize opportunities equally.
Corel evidently pursued Microsoft’s burgeoning market share for PC software when it bought WordPerfect. Yet, Microsoft’s Word software was emerging as the dominant entity in word processing. Hence, in 1999, Corel resolved to compete with Microsoft in their grandest software sector: the PC operating system.
CNN reported in November 1999, the firm initially unveiled Corel Linux OS at the Comdex trade expo. As ZDNet confirmed at the time, the operating system was based on Debian 2.2.12 version of Linux, selected by Corel as they believed Debian had superior coding.
ZDNet expressed that the OS user interface was based on the KDE 1.1.2 desktop environment. The interface indeed echoed Windows 95 or 98, but with custom theme customisation and other extras. It also incorporated its version of a File Manager, consciously designed to mimic the look and behaviour of the File Manager on Windows 95/98.
Another advantage was the relatively quick installation time for the period. ZDNet mentioned that installing the operating system on an Intel-based PC would approximately take 20 minutes.
Corel launched three different versions of Corel Linux OS. A free version was available for download from Corel’s site. Additionally, there was a standard box version priced at $49, which included 30 days of email customer support and a limited WordPerfect version.
A Deluxe box edition was available at $89 as well. This deluxe package provided Corel Linux OS, complete printed manuals, a full version of WordPerfect, 30 days of free email and phone support, and even included a small rubber Linux penguin figure in the box.
However, Corel’s Linux-based operating system didn’t elicit much interest. They did launch a second major update for the OS in August 2000, but it failed to make an impact. As reported by Wired in August 2001, Corel sold its Linux business to a new startup called Xandros. This company sold a variant of Corel Linux under the name Xandros Desktop, which ultimately got acquired by PC/OpenSystems. PC/OpenSystems also owns Linspire, originally known as Lindows.
Corel itself continues to offer versions of CorelDRAW, WordPerfect, and other software products. However, in September 2022, the parent company rebranded itself as Alludo, which is supposed to mean “all you do.” It also is the parent of many other software products, including WinZip, Parallels, and more.
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