Originally Published: Monday, 17 September 2001 Author: Staff of Linux.com
Published to: interact_featured_articles/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

India's Centurion Linux; Coming to A World Near You Soon.

India's Centurion Linux writes: "We envision a future where technology will enrich lives of all on this planet." Oh, well so do we! It's probably a tribal thing. Ever wonder what's happening with Linux, Open Source and Free software outside of the United States? We do, and when we spoke to Manvinder Bali we started to get some idea: it's all good.

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Linux has come a long way in the past 10 years. There are various linux ports available for all popular software and tools. The number of developers working the world over on Linux are far more than on any other operating system. The entire effort has been well co-ordinated thus far, and the results have been quite satisfactory.

Despite all these efforts, why is it that a new computer user still choses a costly OS like Windows to a free Linux distribution? Not all of this can be explained by issues of universality and available applications any more. The Linux community must start to recognize that issues like ease of use and how easy it is to install have a dramatic impact for the new computer user. Those of you who have tried installing Debian and Windows will know what I am talking about. Then again, why has Mandrake been so popular? It makes a complex operating system like Linux seem so much simpler.

As if to prove that Linux is truly an international movement Linux.com caught up with the founder of a new start up aiming on solving this problem: this healthy young start up is located in India, and was conceived over a cup of strong coffee in Bangalore.

Linux.com spoke with Manvinder Bali, the Founder, Chairman and President of Centurion Linux, one of the most promising Linux start-ups in India to find out what his company is all about, and what they plan to do with their own Linux distribution for India.

Linux.com: Can you tell us how you got started?

Mr. Bali: I was introduced to Linux by my brother while I was in college. My cousin Nimit, from Motorola, and I really got hooked on to RedHat back then. As we hacked and played around more with Linux, we realised what potential this operating system had. The whole idea of Open Source and Free Software just made us totally addicted to Linux. We wanted to promote this OS on a national level, and make Linux the most popular OS for the home user segment in India.

That was when we met Rohan and Neil, two amazing Linux hackers here in Pune, India. We discussed the whole idea of starting a Linux based company that would -- as its ultimate goal -- see that Linux was the most popular OS in India. The toughest task ahead of us was to replace Microsoft's monopoly in the market, and the only way we could possibly do that was to come out with a distribution simpler to use than Windows, and at the same time, provide the traditional stability and security of a Linux machine. This was essentially the birth of Centurion Linux.

Linux.com: How popular is Linux in India? What is the size of your market?

Mr. Bali: At the moment, I would say that Linux is really catching on in the India. Personally, I would think it could take another year or two for people to actually start using Linux for all purposes: personal and commercial. The whole concept of Open Source and Free Software is yet to get into the blood-stream of Indian users. Of course, visits and seminars by free software greats such as Richard Stallman always help, but we need to see more of that in the near future. That is where companies like ours play an important role. We try to spread the word and get more of the community involved in Linux.

There are about 1.5 million new computers sold in India per year, and this figure is growing by 50 % annually. We are targeting most of these customers via OEM release of our distribution, and also existing users.

Linux.com: What do you think your customers will be looking for in this distribution they cannot get in others?

Mr. Bali: Unfortunately, Linux has always been seen as an OS where you have to be some sort of a rocket scientist to run it. No matter how easy to use all the current distributions are, it is still a fairly complex OS for an average user. Mandrake 8 comes closest to being a user-friendly Linux distro, in my opinion.

Our company aims at making this distribution the most popular distribution in India, to begin with. he most important factor that can contribute to the achievement of this goal is ease of use. We have taken special care to make this distribution the most easy to install and use. The install procedure just asks you three basic questions: Where to install, Partitioning, and Are you sure you want to continue? Apart from that, most issues such as hardware detection and setup are handled by our distribution itself. These can be tweaked later by the use of a utility called CLAW which is basically a unified administration wizard.

We are also providing features such as CLIP, by means of which you can just use the command clip and pass the requisite parameters and install different packages such as RPMS and DEBS. We have one touch Internet connectivity for all Indian users, for all the major ISPs here.

It is features such as these that will set our distribution apart from the rest that are currently available.

Linux.com: What name are you planning to give to your distribution?

Mr. Bali: At the moment, we call it BitterCoffee!. However, the distribution will finally be released under the name Centurion Linux.

Linux.com: Do you just have one distro. or a larger product line?

Mr. Bali: Our company's primary concern at the moment is the distro. The moment we come out with that in the market, we will focus on a much larger product line. We already have a team of engineers working on Linux for embedded systems, headed by Nimit Sarup. We are going to mainly focus our resources on the embedded systems division of our company after the release of our distro.

Apart from that, we will be providing consultancy and support services for Linux on a national scale.

Linux.com: So is this distro only for the Indian market?

Mr. Bali: <smiles> Heh. Well, I wouldn't say its only for the Indian market. Our thinking behind coming out with this distro was to make Linux the number one OS in the home user segment in India, by making it the simplest distro to install and use. We do have features in the distro which are specific to India, like the Indian languages font support and stuff like that. On the other hand, the overall concept of this distro is to promote Linux as the number one OS for the home user segment.

If we can manage to get some sponsors like IBM to back us, we would surely like to offer the benefits of this distro to the international community.

Linux.com: How about open source in India? is it a growing movement?

Mr. Bali: Open Source as a movement is really catching up in India. Having said that, I'd like to mention that there are a couple of companies who try to dominate and control the whole movement, even though they say they are co-ordinating it. That is what Centurion Linux would like to change. We want to make sure that the word "community" does not lose its meaning in this battle amongst corporate to control the Open Source movement in India.

IBM is one of the most active participant and promoter of Linux in India of late. We hope to work along with IBM and collaborate our resources and efforts to attain a common goal: Freedom.

Linux.com: How will you distribute your products?

Mr. Bali: We have agreements with various computer dealers and vendors across the country to ship our distro with all the machines they sell. Apart from this, we are also going to release our distribution with the top computer magazines in India, so that most of the existing computer users can get a chance to install this distro on their machines.

Linux.com: How are you adding value?

Mr. Bali: We are going to provide web-based and telephone based support to all the registered users of our distribution. Support is one of the most critical areas in the Linux market. We intend to cover that area well. <smiles>

Linux.com: How large is your company?

Mr. Bali: Our company is as large as the true "Linux Community" in India. <laughs>. We have achieved a lot at our company with the help of all the Linux enthusiasts in India. We value each person's contribution to Linux and truly appreciate it. Anyway, apart from the community, Centurion Linux comprises of the following Linux enthusiasts:

Core Team :
Manvinder Bali: Founder, Chairman and President
Maninder Bali: CEO and Managing Director
Nimit Sarup: CSA
Rohan D'Sa: Director, CTO
Neil Sequeira: Director, COO

Apart from this, we hire Linux developers on a project-basis. We have a lot of developers working directly on our distribution online. This makes it a fairly large team of developers to handle.

Linux.com: What are your plans for the future?

Mr. Bali: We would like to continue with our efforts to make our distribution the most easy to install and use Linux distribution the world over. Apart from that, we plan to move into consultancy and support in a big way in India.

We are also aiming at having a tie-up with giants like IBM and Wipro to help us promote Linux and extend our services in India, and abroad.

Linux.com: It was really nice to talk with you and get an insight on the Linux scene in India. We do hope you achieve your aims and goals, and wish you all the best. Thank you for talking with Linux.com

Mr. Bali: My pleasure. Thanks. More Information

You can find out more about Centurion Linux on http://www.centurionlinux.com/ The author of this article can be contacted for any queries at bali@linux.com





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