After part of its new code was released by hackers last week, Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT) officially released Red Hat Linux 8.0 on Monday in a move designed to win more Red Hat users at the corporate desktop.

Red Hat calls 8.0 a “highly versatile operating system designed for personal and small business computing”. The Raleigh-based company insists that 8.0 combines leading-edge Linux technologies with a new graphical look and feel that offers users a polished, easy-to-use operating environment.

In an interview with Cnet, an analyst said Red Hat has a chance to “force” a common Linux desktop.

“If Red Hat can come in and force a peace on the situation, it may not be viewed wonderfully in the community, but it may go a long way toward establishing Linux on the desktop,” Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg told Cnet.

Not everyone likes what Red Hat is doing, however.

Desktop Linux users have had coices for a GUI (graphical user interface), Gnome and KDE. The fact Red Hat’s new software prefers Gnome over KDE led to a Red Hat eningeer to resign in protest.

“Effective immediately, I’ve left Red Hat (mostly in mutual agreement – I don’t want to work on crippling KDE, and they don’t want an employee who admits RH 8.0’s KDE is crippleware),” said Bernard Rosenkraezner in a posting on a KDE related Web site.

Linux programmers operating in an open source environment are fiercely independent.

Red Hat insisted Monday that 8.0 will make headway in the desktop market where Microsoft Windows dominates with more than 90 percent market share.

“Red Hat Linux 8.0 is the perfect choice for small businesses and enthusiasts looking for a reliable, easy-to-use operating system with the latest productivity applications,” Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, said in a statement. “This is a major step forward for users of traditional operating systems who have been looking for an easier-to-use, more versatile open source solution.”

Red Hat adds that Linux 8.0 delivers enhanced productivity tools and an updated graphical interface that combine to create an easy-to-use operating environment for today’s personal and professional users. Key features of the latest release include new Red Hat Bluecurve,, configuration tools, a personal firewall tool, Red Hat Network integration, upgraded core components, a Web server powered by Apache 2.0 and new accessibility features.

On Sept. 26, Cnet reported that some Red Hat Linux 8.0 code had already “leaked” on a Web site. Another Web site got access to some updates and notes about the package, but the information was removed, Cnet added. At the time, a Red Hat spokesman said that leaks were “inevitable.”

Red Hat Linux 8.0 Personal for individual users has price of $39.95 and includes 30 days of Red Hat Network Basic Service and Web-based support. Red Hat Linux 8.0 Professional sales for $149.95 and includes a system administrator’s CD, an office and multimedia applications CD, 60 days of Red Hat Network Basic Service and 60 days of Web-based support and telephone support.

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