The fifth differentiator is the fact that Novell knows interoperability and Windows well. The company is also implementing the Open Desktop Initiative, under which it is aggressively migrating all internal Novell clientsabout 6,000to the new Novell Linux Desktop under development. "The coordination between our engineering team and the team doing that rollout is very good, and we are getting incredible feedback," Friedman said. "This is the best set of beta testers possible from an engineering perspective, as we can try things more aggressively and learn a lot faster."We understand that people are going to live in a mixed environment for a while and will still have Windows and Linux machines, and we are going to make that work really well, which again is not something Red Hat [Inc.] is focusing on and enabling," he said.The sixth differentiating factor is what Friedman called Novells leadership in a number of key areas such as open source, OpenOffice, Mozilla, GNOME, KDE and Evolution. "We will use that and Mono to drive the real growth of our ISV strategy in the future," Friedman said. Friedman also said there arent too many players in the desktop market and that the ones based on Linux are essentially all using the same code base. "The good news is that we are all using open source," he said. "Red Hat engineers work with our engineers who work with Suns engineers every single day, so we are not repeating the Unix wars and are all working off the open-source code base, and theres room enough for a lot of competition. But we are going to compete really vigorously here," he said. Responding to comments by Microsofts group vice president of platforms that the open-source community will be playing "catch-up" to Longhorn, the next version of Windows due in 2006, and that they are "cloners," Friedman said Microsoft has a strong history of copying open-source innovation, from the first Web servers and browsers to the first declarative language for user interfaces and XML. "Microsoft is building these castles in the sky, and we are not going to build the same castles in the sky elsewhere. Thats not the approach. What matters is that we give the users and developers what they want," he said. "Cloning Microsoft is not the approach here. What Microsoft has discovered, though, is that Web standards have stagnated and that the Web and desktop experiences are different." He said the recent discussions between Mozilla and GNOME intended to look at how the community can provide a great environment for developers to provide high-fidelity applications until "we give them a Web deployment model. Thats what people want. Thats what that discussion centered on and was not about us going right after Microsoft," he said. Microsoft is also releasing all of its innovation in Longhorn in pretty much a single drop, Friedman said. "We arent limited in that way, and we are able to provide innovation when it is ready, while Microsofts strategy is to make everyone pay for an upgrade, and so innovation is delivered that way." For a look at the latest Longhorn build, click here. But the fact that so many Linux-based desktops exist is a solid indication that customers want a Microsoft alternative, he said, adding that Novell sees a huge revenue opportunity there as the use of Linux desktops grows. A number of enterprise pilotsmany of them undertaken by Fortune 100 companiesare testing Novells desktop, he said, as well as a group of customers known as the Customer Council that reports back on a weekly basis. "We are not yet in public beta with the product, but it will be ready by the end of the year," Friedman said. "You will see a more public beta from us later this year." Check out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at http://linux.eweek.com for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.