ELX Plans To Sell 100,000 Linux Desktops This Year

by Hinesh Jethwani    Jul 15, 2004

Another penguin vendor is turning bullish on the Indian market. Hyderabad-based ELX Linux Pvt. Ltd. has aggressive plans for selling its Linux desktop OS — BizDesk 4.0 — in the country, doubling its previous target of 50,000 copies to a new highpoint of 100,000.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Manojit Majumdar, an ex-SCO evangelist now heading the sales & marketing at ELX India, said, “Analyzing the tremendous potential that the Linux desktop market offers, we have increased our initial target. We now plan to sell 100,000 copies of BizDesk 4.0 by the end of this financial year.”

Echoing the immense challenge that Linux distro vendors face while approaching prospective clients hell-bent on the Microsoft mentality, Majumdar said, “Linux has superbly adapted to the desktop space — a fact that is largely unknown and still throws up disbelief on every CIOs face. One of our corporate customers symbolizes this stereotype perfectly. The first step of their evaluation process was to check whether MS Office could run on BizDesk 4.0. Secondly, they had commonplace concerns whether employees used to the Windows interface could adapt to a Linux desktop. The fact is that we have invested a tremendous effort in making our Linux desktop as close as possible to Microsoft’s Windows. The results are encouraging: we have managed to create a virtual emulator of sorts, that clones most Windows functions perfectly.”

BizDesk 4.0 has come so close to imitating Windows, that some enterprise beta users actually mistook it for a new version of Windows, claimed Majumdar.

The desktop comes with Mozilla, OpenOffice, GIMP (Linux’s answer to Adobe), project management software, graphical tools, and Wine enabled technology — an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of Linux. Wine provides both a development toolkit (Winelib) for porting Windows sources to Linux and a program loader, allowing many unmodified Windows binaries to run on Linux. “Wine effectively forms a layer on top of Linux, allowing it to run compiled programs in VB with similar run time results,” added Majumdar.

“We have managed to successfully convert 30 desktops at Hyderabad High Court from Microsoft to BizDesk 4.0. They had already tested Red Hat Linux on the desktop front earlier, but they continued to use Windows. The basic limiter was the fact that printing on dot matrix printers with Linux was painfully slow. They were using a particular graphical driver that was causing the problem. Also, the default US legal size that MS Office prints documents on was different from what OpenOffice had to offer. We managed to map BizDesk 4.0 to their requirements and we bagged the deal. Simple,” said Majumdar.

NIC was the technology advisor for the Hyderabad High Court deal. With the success of the project, NIC has added ELX on its Linux vendor list, which previously consisted of Red Hat, SuSE and Sun. Gurgaon-based DLF is also in the process of negotiating a deal with ELX.

So what does ELX have to offer to compete with Red Hat in the Linux desktop space? “We are more focused on the desktop space, and have amassed a huge database of drivers for dot matrix printers, scanners, etc. We have already purchased a device driver development kit for PCI cards, and are looking to do something similar with Ethernet cards next. BizDesk can more strongly emulate Windows than Red Hat desktop. For e.g. right click pop-ups, zipping procedures, etc. are all exactly the same in BizDesk as in Windows. We have also added a launch pad feature that accumulates a users favorite and most frequently accessed application set in one single window. Samba has been configured in such a way, that users can run multiple OS’ including Windows on the same client. It will be 8-9 months before any Linux distro can catch up with us,” claimed Majumdar.

And how do you emulate the worlds largest software maker without infringing on any patent rights? Majumdar replied, “We have made sure that we follow a differential nomenclature. For e.g., instead of ’My Documents’, we have ’My Docs’. Similarly, the ’Network Neighborhood’ icon has been replaced by ’My Network’. Our Control Panel gives exactly the same kind of GUI interface that Windows offers, allowing users to add/delete software/hardware in exactly the same way.”

On the enterprise front, the company’s Power Desktop 4.0 has just been tested on Oracle 9i and it is now being tried on Oracle 10g. Oracle D2K already works on Power Desktop and ELX plans to start selling it next month. Hyderabad High Court was also facing problems with other Linux servers running Oracle 9i apps that had been evaluated earlier, and they have now migrated to Power Desktop 4.0, claimed Majumdar.

The company is currently negotiating a massive 40,000 desktop deal with a corporate customer, but Majumdar refused to divulge further details, claiming that it was too premature to talk.

ELX has tied up with LG in Hyderabad for bundling BizDesk on their desktops, and plans similar activities in other parts of the state. The company has already set up sales and support offices in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi.

Since BizDesk 4.0 is available for Rs 500 (plus taxes) only, the company has plans to tie-up with courier company GATI to provide a Cash On Delivery (COD) option to users placing orders from remote locations in the country.

Tags: Linux