Desktop Linux age around corner, says SUSE head

Markus Rex, the co-founder of SUSE Linux who became Novell's vice president and GM for SUSE when Novell bought the company last year, says the purchase gave SUSE a greater global outreach and the acquisition has given Novell "a real appreciation of how software gets developed in the open source world".

Speaking to Computerworld at a Novell event this month in Auckland, he said that with its purchase of SUSE late last year and Ximian a few months earlier, Novell "has made a clear and strong commitment to Linux and now the SUSE team can make sure Novell gets it right."

A theme of the event was Novell's upcoming desktop Linux product, which will be on sale before the end of the year.

Not everyone is convinced that the age of desktop Linux is just around the corner, but Rex says it's coming.

"People say, 'How can I get a PC with Linux?'," he says. "Well, it's easy - go to HP's website and buy one."

Novell chief marketing officer Debra Bergevine, who also spoke at the event, says desktop Linux was initially viewed as something for specialised groups or functions within organisations, such as the research and development department or point of sale systems.

Now, she says, the technology has improved to the extent that across-the-board rollouts are happening, such as in the City of Munich, Germany, where 14,000 seats are going the Linux desktop way.

On the question of what market share desktop Linux will achieve, she says market share can have a different meaning depending on whether you're talking units or revenue.

"With desktop Linux, units will go up rapidly, but revenue won't, because it's still a low price point.

"For the next few years, desktop Linux won't have much impact on Microsoft's market share."

Earlier this year, former HP spokesman Ken Erskine told Computerworld there had been "less than a handful" of orders for preinstalled Linux on HP desktop and portable computers in New Zealand and says lack of demand was why New Zealand was excluded from an Asia-wide HP initiative to sell PCs bundled with TurboLinux, an Asian distribution.

One of New Zealand's biggest and most successful Linux deployments was the ill-fated Kachingo shopping rewards programme, which ran Linux centrally and at its point of sale terminals. Kachingo collapsed commercially last year, but the Linux system it ran on wasn't a contributing factor to its demise.

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