Novell is this week expected to spruce up a version of its Linux desktop aimed squarely at enterprise users.
Built on the same core code base as Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9, Linux Desktop 9 is best suited for corporate users conducting transactions and working in call centers. It's also ideal for more specialized tasks such as kiosks and as a replacement for higher-end Unix-based workstations, according to company officials.
"This product is not about the wholesale replacement of Windows systems but about identifying where and when an open source desktop can be a sensible, cost-effective alternative," Novell chairman and CEO Jack Messman said.
Trying to entice corporate users with a one-stop shopping approach, Novell has bundled its own version of OpenOffice.org with the operating system. OpenOffice.org is compatible with Microsoft Office files, the Mozilla Firefox browser, Novell's Evolution collaboration software, and the ZENworks Linux Management tool, which allows administrators to configure and mange Linux desktops from a remote server.
"I think they understand the market they are going after with this desktop and are positioning it correctly, instead of saying, 'Hey, rip out Windows, put this in, and life will be grand.' It is almost refreshing, as well as pragmatic, to hear this," said Gary Hein, service director at the Burton Group consultancy.
Observers mostly liked what they saw of the product, although Version 9 may need a little more spit and polish and, like other releases of Linux for the desktop, more of an ecosystem built around it.
"There is still a good bit of development that needs to happen in the Linux desktop ecosystem and you may not see that from a Novell or Red Hat any time soon," Hein said. "But in recent surveys we did around Linux servers, users are mentioning more and more limited pilot projects with Linux on the desktop that seem to be sticking."