Thanks to an expanded partnership with Novell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. is claiming to be the only major IT vendor to provide Linux systems from the desktop to the datacenter.
The two companies, which already sell Linux on servers, announced Wednesday at Novells BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City that they would work together to sell notebook and desktop PCs loaded with Linux.
Large enterprises continue to invest in the open-source operating system on the server, but Linuxs adoption on the desktop, where it competes with Microsoft Corp.s Windows, has been much slower. Some Linux enthusiasts say 2004 could be a breakthrough year for Linux on the desktop, but others are skeptical.
HPs extended partnership with Novell comes in response to enterprise demand for Linux on the desktop, said Martin Fink, vice president of Linux, at HP.
“A number of very large enterprise customers are asking, What is the opportunity for Linux clients on our desktops?” Fink said. But “I dont have a Fortune 50 CIO wanting to deploy tomorrow,” he added. “They want to kick the tires, test it out.”
Fink said he envisions businesses using Linux for call centers, support centers or help desks—which use only one or two applications—and for thin-client deployments. This is in line with Novell CEO Jack Messmans comments Tuesday on Novells pursuit of a thin-client Linux desktop solution.
HP already sells more than 100,000 Linux-based workstations and business desktop PCs each quarter, Fink said. As part of the HP-Novell deal announced Wednesday, Novells SuSE Linux will become HPs standard Linux distribution for business desktop and notebook PCs in North America, with Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific countries added at a later date.
Novell of Waltham, Mass., on Tuesday announced that it plans to create a best-of-breed Linux desktop by combing Gnomes and KDEs top features. HP of Palo Alto, Calif., will eventually move to this version, Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone said in a conference call Wednesday.
HP will offer 24-7 support for the new desktop and laptop products, while customers also will have the option to work with Novell directly, Fink said. HP plans to start rolling out the systems in the second half of 2004. Although officials wouldnt release exact pricing, Fink said it will likely depend on how support services are delivered and may vary on a case-by-case basis.
Novell in January acquired German Linux powerhouse SuSE Linux AG for $210 million in cash.
Next Page: The SCO Groups copyright claims are a potential obstacle.
SCO Claims are Potential
One potential obstacle to adoption of the HP Linux desktops is The SCO Groups efforts to claim copyright royalties for Linux. Novell at the time it acquired SuSE also offered customers indemnification against Linux copyright lawsuits. According to Novell, even if The SCO Groups assertion that Linux violates its Unix intellectual property were upheld, Novell Linux users covered by its program still would be protected against SCOs copyright claims.
HP also offers a Linux indemnity program, and Novells Stone said the two companies indemnifications are complementary. “We want customers to focus on adopting Linux, not worrying about liability issues,” he said. “If youve got liability issues, weve got answers.”
Despite its deepening ties with Novell and SuSE Linux, HP is not about to abandon its other operating-system partners.
As for how the move will affect HPs long-standing partnership with Microsoft, Fink said HP will continue its strong partnership with Microsoft, as the Redmond, Wash., software giant continues to hold the lions share of the desktop market.
Linux represented 2.8 percent of all desktop operating environment new license shipments in 2002, up slightly from 2.3 percent in 2001, according to IDC spokesman Mike Shirer. The Framingham, Mass.-based research firm predicts that new Linux license shipments will comprise about 5 percent of the market in 2006, he said.
HP also will continue its partnership with Linux distributor Red Hat Inc., especially in the server space, Fink said. “Red Hat wont pursue the client market at this time, but for the rest of our product platforms—servers, storage, software and services—Red Hat provides a critical role,” he said.
HP will maintain support for products bundled with Paris-based Linux distributor MandrakeSoft S.A., but going forward, HPs choice of distribution will be SuSE, Fink said.
HP last week said it would roll out Linux-based desktop PCs throughout Asia. Those machines will run an operating system from Tokyo-based TurboLinux and will come with OpenOffice.org 1.1, open-source office productivity software that offers compatibility with Microsoft Office files, according to a statement from TurboLinux. During Wednesdays conference call, Fink said the company will continue to rely on TurboLinux for that region, as its Linux distributions are tailored for the region with character support for its languages.