The SuSE Linux Professional desktop will ship in April. It comes with all the usual updates one would expect from a modern, full-featured Linux desktop: the Firefox 1.01 Web browser, the Novell Evolution 2.0 groupware client, the 2.6.11 Linux kernel and your choice of a KDE 3.4 or GNOME 2.10 interface.
But theres more. In addition, this distribution will ship with OpenOffice.org 2.0, the latest version of the popular desktop application suite; VOIP (voice over IP) Linphone; and iPod compatibility.
SuSE Linux Professional, though, will not just be a collection of cutting-edge Linux and open-source technologies. SuSE is adding its own new contributions to the Linux desktop.
This distribution is also the forerunner for Novells next enterprise Linux desktop: NLD (Novell Linux Desktop) 2.
In fact, Nat Friedman, vice president of Linux desktop engineering at Novell Inc. said, "We are getting ahead of Windows for the first time."
While the new Professional hasnt been shown to the public yet, those bedazzled attendees who have managed to see it think Friedman may be right.
The most exciting development, according to several observers, was Beagle. This is a new integrated desktop metadata search program that indexes a users hard drive content in a way thats similar to Google Desktop 2 or Apples Spotlight. One observer commented, "Beagle is like Desktop on steroids."
Beagle, which uses the Mozilla Gecko rendering engine for its display, is more than just an attractive, interactive search tool. It can also be used in Mono-based C+ programs, as Friedman demonstrated during an interview.
A demonstration of some Beagles features is available online.
Friedman also said that with Beagle in place, it would finally be possible to create a program he calls "Dashboard."
Dashboards goal is to automatically show a user useful files based on his or her current activities. For example, if you were writing an e-mail about your plans for the coming weekend, Dashboard would automatically display your schedule for that weekend.
While Dashboard wont make it into 9.3, Friedman has hopes that it will make it into the next version of Professional, and possibly into NLD 2.
The new Professional also comes with another program thats reminiscent of a Google software offering. In this case, its Googles free photo-editing, organizing and Web publishing program Picasa 2. Novells answer to this Windows-only program is the F-Spot photo-management tool.
Both these innovative Novell-sponsored programs are licensed under the GPL. Beyond the feature set, Professional will also include Xen 2.05 virtualization software. This will enable users to run multiple instances of Linux simultaneously.
While this may seem more like a parlor trick than something useful on a desktop machine, Chris Schlaeger, Novells vice president of engineering for Linux, said, "It will work on Professional, but were not going to say its ready for enterprise use, because its not."
Looking ahead, though, Schlaeger said, "Once Xen has been mastered on the Professional platform, its virtualization capabilities will become part of our data-center offering, where the processor virtualization is extremely important."
And looking ahead for Professional, Ed Anderson, Novells vice president of Linux and platform services, hinted that Novell may be thinking about opening up its development path. "Weve been mulling over creating a community-based Linux like Red Hats Fedora. There are many things we like about the Fedora Project, but there are some we dont."