Linux is ready for the corporate desktop, and the forthcoming version of Novell Inc.'s
Linux Desktop offering will go head-to-head against Windows, Novell executives
said this week at the company's annual BrainShare gathering in Salt Lake City.
Novell is currently developing Linux Desktop 10, which will
lift the application suite from its current role targeting specific workgroups
to mainstream enterprise deployment, according to Nat Friedman, vice president
of desktop and collaboration engineering at Novell.
Currently, Linux on the desktop has been adopted primarily by
technology groups and the public sector. "The next release of [Novell] Linux
Desktop will be ready to compete with Windows," Friedman said.
Novell's Linux Desktop 9 includes a desktop operating system,
Novell's edition of the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite, Mozilla
Firefox, a multinetwork instant-messaging client and the Novell Evolution
open-source collaboration client, as well as technical support.
New features in Linux Desktop 10 will include a desktop search
feature dubbed Beagle and a desktop note-taking technology called Tomboy. Also
planned for the release, due out next year, is F-Spot, a personal photo
management application. Beagle is designed to search documents, e-mail, instant
messages, Web history, source code, music files, PowerPoint files and other
"What [Beagle] does is it indexes everything in your life,"
Friedman said, adding that with Beagle, instant messages, mail and Web pages can
all be filtered by type. "Microsoft does not have that right now. They have been
promising it for some time."
The Beagle search function, which beats Microsoft's
long-promised WinFS search functions to market, is a clear indication of one of
the biggest advantages of open-source: the compacted development cycle fueled by
the large community of developers, according to Friedman.
"We are outpacing Microsoft on the desktop. The Linux desktop
has been in development for less time than Windows, and we are already
surpassing them," he said.
F-Spot and Beagle were built using the Mono Project
open-source development environment. F-Spot was developed by Larry Ewing, the
creator of Tux the penguin, the famous Linux mascot.
F-Spot lets users drag and drop icons, such as people, places
and favorites, onto thumbnail images of the photos and then sort them. Images
can be sorted by date, edited and exported to a number of different types of Web
gallery software, including Flickr, Web Gallery and Original (Open Remote Image
Gallery, Initially Not as Lovely).
Friedman sees F-Spot not only as an interesting application,
but also as a proof of concept for Mono. "What is interesting about this program
... is that it was written by one developer in six months," he said.
Several of the Linux Desktop 10 features -- including Beagle,
F-Spot, Tomboy, an Evolution 2.2 plug in and the Mono developer tools -- will
surface in SUSE Linux 9.3, which will be introduced in early April.
Two of the biggest hurdles to wooing users to the Linux
desktop are support and applications.
The biggest challenge is "applications on Windows that don't
exist on Linux," Friedman said. The Mono development environment, an open-source
implementation of the .Net framework, will help meet that challenge by letting
developers create applications to run on Linux.
In addition, Novell is aggressively working to cultivate
relationships with independent software vendors to get more applications on
Linux. Several ISV announcements are expected in the next six months, according
to Jeff Allen, product marketing manager for Novell Linux Desktop.
Linux Desktop also includes technical support. Novell has more
than 800 support engineers around the world, Allen said.
"Support is key," he said. "Novell is really offering a bigger
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In 1981 when the original IBM Personal Computer was announced,
IBM released three operating systems for it. How many of you remember that?
Since I wrote the first IBM course on how to fix this original PC, I had to know
at least a little about all three of them.
IBM decided early in the development process of the PC that they
did not want to hire a bunch of programmers to write software for it -
especially an operating system. IBM wanted the hardware business and did not
care about the software. Since there was no clear-cut contender for an operating
system at the time, IBM approached three organizations about writing one for the