Novell is betting that its upcoming SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 will be the release that drives widespread business adoption of its Linux desktop, especially as it brings features like integrated desktop search, which is not yet found in its largest competitor, Microsofts Windows.
Executives from Novell, based in Waltham, Mass., are in Germany for the annual CeBIT trade show, where they will be talking about the new desktop, due out this summer.
The desktop has also been renamed and rebranded from the current Novell Linux Desktop 10 moniker to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, a director of Linux and open source at Novell, told eWEEK.
While he declined to give specific pricing details, Mancusi-Ungaro said not to expect much movement from the current price of $50 per system a year for its Novell Linux Desktop 9, which is targeted at those customers with more contained workloads.
Until now, the biggest issues IT administrators faced around the Linux desktop were overall desktop usability, connectivity to collaboration, the productivity applications at its core and its ability to be deployed and managed by IT.
“We have a made a big investment in getting over all of those hurdles,” he said.
The desktop now includes the Beagle search engine, which has been made an integral part of the user interface, essentially changing the desktop paradigm away from a file hierarchical organization to one where the user is only bound by the limit of concept and keyword, he said.
“Users can type a keyword and all of the content in their personal workspace—whether its documents, images, recently visited Web sites or IM chats—is presented to you in an easily navigable window,” Mancusi-Ungaro said.
Asked how this different from the search capabilities already in the Apple Mac and which Microsoft is promising with Windows Vista, he said, “I think they are all different cuts of the same goal.”
In September 2004, Microsoft said it would pull WinFS (the Windows File System) from the Windows Vista release due later this year.
WinFS is a next-generation storage subsystem that allows advanced data organization and management, while improving the storage and retrieval of files. WinFS will be released sometime after Vista ships, Microsoft officials have said.
But the launch of Windows Vista would be the “greatest single event for the Linux desktop since Microsoft announced Software Assurance some four years ago, which forced droves of people to seriously consider the Linux alternatives as they will again as they move closer to having to make a decision on Vista,” Mancusi-Ungaro said.
While Novell officials have previously said the target audience for its Linux desktop was not all Windows customers, but rather groups like transactional workers, special-purpose roles and replacements for high-end Unix workstations, Mancusi-Ungaro said the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 “dramatically” changes that.
In Novells favor is the fact that the SUSE desktop will be out and in the market long before Windows Vista is released. It also has integrated search, good usability and rich technology solutions like its F-Spot photo-management tool, which will have more functionality than the photo-management tool in Windows, Mancusi-Ungaro said.
The SUSE Linux Desktop 10, with Novells edition of OpenOffice.org, will also have a macro interpreter that is conversant with the Visual Basic macros in Microsofts Excel spreadsheets, while the pivot table in OpenOffice.org would have the DataPilot function and a fully functioning import module.
“So, now when you open up a spreadsheet in OpenOffice.org 2.0 and it has a pivot table in it, that table is translated into the OpenOffice DataPilot and it opens, it reads and it runs.
“Those are two big barriers we have overcome, along with a lot more work in file fidelity between the Microsoft formats and the Open formats, so that reading and writing files back and forth is really much better now,” he said.
On the collaboration front, the new desktop continues to support Novells GroupWise and has an open-source connector in its Evolution client that supports Exchange.
Also, IBM has announced that the plug-in to its Workplace client technology would allow e-mail, calendaring and notes access to users who use Firefox, he said.
“That gives us checks in all the collaboration boxes. Again, these were big barriers to adoption,” Mancusi-Ungaro said.
The SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 will also continue to support both the KDE and Gnome graphical desktop environments, but Gnome will remain the default.
The SUSE desktop will also work with existing and some legacy hardware, while Windows Vista will probably require a hardware upgrade as well, he said.
“We know that every migration starts with fitting in and so we have paid special attention to all of that,” Mancusi-Ungaro said.