Eazel

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IndustrySoftware development
Fatedefunct
FoundedAugust 1999; 19 years ago (1999-08) in
Mountain View, California
FounderAndy Hertzfeld
Headquarters,
Key people
Andy Hertzfeld, Bud Tribble, Mike Boich, Darin Adler
Number of employees
75 (2001)
WebsiteEazel.com at the Wayback Machine (archived May 10, 2000)

Eazel was an American software company operating from 1999 to 2001 in Palo Alto[1] and then Mountain View, California.[2] The company created the Nautilus file manager for the GNOME desktop environment on Linux, which was immediately adopted and maintained by the free software community beyond the company's lifespan. Renamed to "GNOME Files", this application is an early example of cloud storage services and continues to be a centerpiece of the Linux desktop environment.

Overview[edit]

Eazel was staffed with former employees of many luminary technology companies such as Apple, Netscape, Be Inc., Linuxcare, Microsoft, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems. Mike Boich was CEO, having been a major figure at Apple; Bud Tribble was VP of Engineering, having been software manager and a designer of the original Macintosh project; Andy Hertzfeld was a principal designer, having been a lead software engineer and a designer of the original Macintosh project; Darin Adler led development, having been the technical lead for System 7 for the Macintosh; and Susan Kare designed new vector graphics-based iconography, having designed the original Macintosh icons. Other notable staff included programmer Maciej Stachowiak, who was a programmer and board member for GNOME; and board member Michael Homer, formerly of Apple, AOL, and Netscape.[3][4][5][1]

Having raised more than $12 million in venture capital,[6][5] the company grew from 22 employees in 1999[6] to 75 employees in 2001.[2][7] Eazel was named one of the top 10 companies to watch, by Red Herring magazine.[6] Ultimately, Eazel's main achievement was the creation of the Nautilus file manager for the GNOME desktop environment.[8][9]

In doing so, the company faced several simultaneous challenges: creating a lot of intricate user-facing software from scratch or from existing code which must target all the disparate Linux environment versions; integrating a corporate personality into the existing and outspoken volunteer community of the GNOME desktop environment; building upon a very small nascent market of Linux desktop users amongst an already widely served and monopolized desktop computing market; and monetizing free software for individual consumers by creating essential business services. In other words, Eazel sought to switch a groundswell of users from Macintosh and Windows to a new and immature system that free software users would want to pay for. Of the two predominant free desktop environments for Linux, the choice to target GNOME instead of KDE was made largely because of the questionable legality of the Qt license upon which KDE was based.[10][not in citation given]

One thing that's different from us and a lot of the Linux hackers is that on our team we have a lot of people with a lot experience coming up with user interfaces without any prior example. ... It's hard to decide how much to copy and borrow, how much to invent, and how to make it all consistent. ... This is an issue for the whole GNOME project. We don't want to make Nautilus this weirdo program that's different from the rest of the system. We really feel like something we've barely started on is helping ratchet up the whole community into understanding how to do better user interfaces. Right now, the numbers [of Linux desktop users] are so small, there's huge room for improvement. They're small for a reason. [Existing Linux desktop software] doesn't have the properties that would make it nice for the desktop, to make it an obvious choice. ... Some of the revolutionary work we do will not only make it possible, but compelling.

— Darin Adler, project lead of Nautilus at Eazel[10]

History[edit]

Eazel was founded by Andy Hertzfeld in August 1999 in Mountain View, California. It had 22 initial employees and raised $12 million from a number of venture capital investment companies.[6] Initially, all the programmers worked on every aspect of the product and eventually specialized on its components.[11]

In December 2000, Dell invested a "substantial stake" in Eazel[7] and committed to preloading Nautilus on its Linux-based desktop and laptop systems, while Eazel preannounced its core business services which were woven directly into the free Nautilus application. Described as the "network user experience", those services are the Software Catalog to aid users in locating and installing applications, and Eazel Online Storage for easily storing and browsing files via their desktop or web browser.[7][12][13]

The company failed to successfully monetize or to secure more funding before venture capital ran out, and the technology market changed drastically in the two years of the company's lifespan. On March 13, 2001, Eazel simultaneously launched the first release of its flagship Nautilus (version 1.0),[13] and laid off most of its 75 employees in an attempt to secure funding in its final few months.[5][2] The company attempted to sell its core development group but ceased operations on May 15, 2001.[14][5]

Hertzfeld arranged a meeting with Steve Jobs and most of Apple's high level management.[11] In June 2001, most of Eazel's final roster of senior engineers (including Bud Tribble, Don Melton, Darin Adler, John Sullivan, Ken Kocienda, and Maciej Stachowiak) joined Apple's Safari team.[15]

Legacy[edit]

Received positively,[13] the Nautilus file manager was incorporated into GNOME since GNOME version 1.4.[16] GNOME has renamed Nautilus to "GNOME Files" and now refers to some of Eazel's early concept of "network user experience" as "cloud storage", which is now provisioned by a variety of sources including the complimentary Google Drive. Nautilus has continued to be updated by the free and open-source software community as one of the centerpieces of the Linux desktop environment.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lee, Lydia (February 24, 2000). "Linux in every lap". Salon. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c JT Smith (March 14, 2001). "Nautilus 1.0 is out, you're all fired, have a nice day". NewsForge. Retrieved September 26, 2007.
  3. ^ "Nautilus' contributors". Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  4. ^ "Welcome To Silicon Valley's Twilight Zone In the nation's mecca of technology, they say they've learned to stop worrying and love the crash. Anyone care to take a lie detector test?". Fortune. March 19, 2001. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "Consumer-Linux company Eazel closes". CNET News. May 15, 2001. Retrieved January 17, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d "10 to Watch". Red Herring. Archived from the original on May 11, 2000. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Scannell, Ed (December 4, 2000). "Eazel shows off Linux client". InfoWorld: 10. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  8. ^ John Ochwat (September 15, 2000). "Eazel's Business Model". O'Reilly Network. O'Reilly Media. Retrieved September 26, 2007.
  9. ^ Timothy R. Butler (May 30, 2008). "Got Vision?". Open for Business.
  10. ^ a b Hall, Michael (September 8, 2000). "A Sneak Peek at Nautilus from Eazel". LinuxPlanet. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Ragan, Gene (February 20, 2018). "Working at Eazel – An Interview with Gene Ragan". Stories of Apple (Interview). Interviewed by Nicola D'Agostino. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  12. ^ "Dell Signs Linux Deal". ComputerWorld: 6. December 4, 2000. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Michael Hall (March 15, 2001). "Review: Nautilus 1.0: Has Eazel Earned Its Place in GNOME?". LinuxPlanet. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
  14. ^ "Sorry We're Closed". Archived from the original on May 16, 2001. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  15. ^ "(fwd) Greetings from the Safari team at Apple Computer" (Mailing list). Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  16. ^ GNOME (April 2, 2001). "GNOME 1.4 Released – Desktop Environment Boasts Power, Stability, Polish and Integration". GNOME press release. Archived from the original on March 3, 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2007.

External links[edit]