In its latest bid to unseat Microsoft Corporation, Corel Corporation announced that a version of its popular Photo-Paint 9 photo editing, image composition and painting application will soon be made available to Linux users for free. The decision to release the fully functional version for free follows the company's strategy for WordPerfect Office, an integrated suite of productivity applications that competes with Microsoft Office. Like WordPerfect, however, only the Linux version of Photo-Paint is free; Windows users must purchase a copy of the software. Photo-Paint 9 will also be included in an upcoming release of the CorelDraw for Linux graphics suite.

"This new release is a natural extension of our current award-winning Linux offerings," said Ian Legrow, the vice president of software development at Corel Corporation. "By providing our powerful graphics applications for the Linux platform we hope to assist in encouraging even more users to incorporate Linux in their existing workflow. As the Linux community continues to grow, more and more users are looking for graphics offerings."

Increasingly, Microsoft finds itself under attack from Linux software vendors, which have seized the free software strategy the company employed to usurp Netscape Communications from its perch atop the Web browser market. With companies such as Sun Microsystems and Corel offering free Office suites, graphics products, developer tools, and other applications, it remains to be seen how Microsoft can respond to such an attack on its core markets. And it's only a matter of time before end users begin looking more earnestly at a system that offers free software across the board. And today such systems, though hard to use, are based on Linux, not Windows.

Previous to the gains made by Linux, it was often assumed that PC hardware would eventually be commoditized, but few analysts saw the coming commoditization of software as well. In a rapidly changing industry, such far-reaching initiatives as Windows DNA 2000 and Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) may be the true future of Microsoft, rather than products such as Windows and Office