Novells Linux Desktop Zeros In on Integration

Enabling great functionality in a mixed environment will give the desktop an edge, the company's vice president of Linux desktop engineering says.

Novell Inc., which last year bought SuSE Linux and Ximian, is working on a single desktop product to ship before the end of this year.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about Novell, IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. targeting Microsofts desktop.

That product will combine the best features from both the Ximian desktop and the SuSE Linux desktop, both of which shipped last year, in a single Novell desktop that will have Novell support, training, channel, partners and global reach.

"So, we are essentially taking the best of all three companies: strength from SuSE in terms of multiplatform support and enterprise-hardened Linux distributions; our expertise and usability and innovation and interoperability on the desktop from Ximian; and Novells strength as a billion-dollar-revenue company with an enormous channel and very powerful reach and great product quality and support," Nat Friedman, Novells vice president of Linux desktop engineering, told eWEEK in an interview.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs review of the latest version of SuSE Linux.

But Friedman would not discuss the pricing model for the upcoming desktop, except to say there is room for a subscription-type payment model as well as the traditional, one-time payment for the packaged physical software.

Friedman said Novell will continue to support existing customers on the current products, adding that the company is focused on creating a desktop environment that is extremely well-integrated and interoperated with the rest of the environment.

"So, you wont see us removing large chunks of code," Friedman said. "We will support both the KDE and GNOME desktop environments and, from an application perspective, there will be a set of defaults that we will support: Evolution, OpenOffice and Mozilla."

With its unified desktop product, Waltham, Mass.-based Novell is principally targeting the enterprise market of large-scale organizations, including government agencies—but the company also will be looking at countries outside the United States in Latin America and Southeast Asia. The company will target small and midsized businesses (SMBs) later, Friedman said.

Six points differentiate Novells desktop offering from all of the other desktop products in the market already, he said, from Microsoft Corp.s Windows to the Red Hat Desktop and Suns Java Desktop System.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about the release of Suns second Java Desktop System.

The first difference is Novells support and its experience in desktop support. "Red Hat has no experience supporting desktops at all. Novell, with Zenworks, has done this for a long time," Friedman said.

Second is the management solution for both Windows and Linux, and third are the value-added services that would make Linux work well for an enterprise environment, essentially GroupWise, GroupWise Messenger, the Identity Management solution, iFolder and iPrint.

"All those services that have been built on NetWare over the past 20 years are now being made available on Linux, and we have built Linux client code for all of this," he said.

Fourth is technology differentiation in a few key areas, including the thin-client space, where "we will have a very strong story that is hardware-independent," Friedman said.

The Mono Project is also a key differentiator, he said, as that technology will be included in the desktop, and Novell will create applications built on Mono.

"We are also going to be providing Mono as a supported ISV platform for people who want to build applications for Linux," Friedman said.

"This allows us to leverage all those Microsoft developers who have been trained on .Net and who can now develop applications for Linux, which is enormous and gives us a better interoperability story with Microsoft."

Next Page: Making a mixed environment work well.