At LinuxWorld Expo in London on Wednesday, Novell Inc. promised its desktop Linux software by the end of the year and launched the latest version of SuSE Linux Professional, including updated wireless networking technology. Hewlett-Packard Co.s head of Linux strategy, speaking at the same conference, said recent advances in security and high-performance computing technology are pushing Linux into new realms.
SuSE Linux Professional, aimed at technical enthusiasts, is updated more frequently than the enterprise edition, and thus includes the platforms latest improvements. Version 9.2 offers some enhancements to the 2.6 kernel, the KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.6 desktop environments, updated mobility configuration tools and support for Bluetooth and wireless LANs. It is available for standard 32-bit processors as well as the 64-bit AMD64 and Intel EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology) platforms.
The package also includes the OpenOffice.org 1.1.3 productivity suite, Novell Evolution 2.0 groupware, GIMP 2.0 for image manipulation, the 2.6.8 kernel and the X.Org Foundations X Window System X11R.6.8.1.
Freddie Kavanagh, Novells chief technology officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, gave attendees an update on the progress of Open Enterprise Server and Novell Linux Desktop, the two major products intended to bring together Novells legacy customers with technology acquired from Ximian and SuSE. Both are expected by the end of this year, although Novell expects OES to make more of an immediate impact than the desktop.
"A confluence of things is moving Linux toward the tipping point on the desktop, but it takes time," Kavanagh told eWEEK.com, speaking from the LinuxWorld show floor. "You cant make a big change something so visible in an organization overnight—you have to manage the risk. CIOs are typically a risk-averse bunch."
OES, which will bring together NetWare 7 and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 with a common management interface, will be attractive to Novell customers planning a gradual migration to Linux, but also to any other companies eyeing Linux, Novell hopes. "Customers migrating from Windows are used to graphical user interfaces, and when moving to something like Linux, the same breadth of GUI tools isnt available," Kavanagh said. "This matches the usability of Windows management. Together with other services like identity management and security policy management, it makes a compelling package for system administrators."
Novells SuSE-based desktop software is now in closed beta testing and will begin to make its way out to partners and resellers as early as next month, with general availability by the end of the year, Kavanagh said. Like Sun Microsystems, with its SuSE-based Java Desktop System, Novell is initially aiming at PCs used for fixed functions such as financial services or retail terminals. One difference with Novells desktop will be that, like all of Novells business-oriented Linux products, it will be based on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9. The desktop will use tools from SuSE such as the YaST configuration manager and Ximians graphical environment, and will be tuned to work with Novells OES platform, Kavanagh said.
Still, Novell is not expecting anything dramatic on the desktop for now. "I dont think there will be significant movement to the Linux desktop over the next 12 months," Kavanagh said. "As you gradually build up services around it, I think you will see it start to take off a bit more."