Linux outfit SuSE is on the desktop offensive, with plans to unveil on Monday a desktop suite designed to take advantage of large IT infrastructures.
Building out on the company's server-based Linux offerings, SuSE Linux Desktop is bundled with Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 6.0 and OpenOffice.org 1.0.2, although users can also install and use the latest versions of Microsoft Office. It also comes with five years free maintenance.
Company officials claim the migration of Windows installations to SuSE's Linux Desktop can be done as efficiently as the extension of existing Windows infrastructures with the Linux Desktop.
"While the server business will remain most important to us, we think the desktop business will be much larger for us over the next 24 months than it is now. We think it could become 30 percent of our business," said Richard Seibt, the CEO of SuSE, based in Nuremburg, Germany.
SuSE appears to be building some momentum, mainly in markets outside the United States, announcing last month it won a contract with the city of Munich to replace 14,000 Windows desktops with SuSE Linux 8.2.
One analyst believes SuSE has a chance to yank away market share from Linux competitors such as RedHat inside large corporate accounts, but doesn't believe it can peel away Microsoft's desktop stranglehold.
"Among power users looking for lots of function out of the operating system, I don't think [SuSE Linux Desktop] is ready to compete in that arena. But among those people who do not need that level of capability and are ticked off by [Microsoft's] Licensing 6.0, I think this will be a good choice for them. I see the making some inroads with this," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at Redmonk in Hollis, N.H.
Key to its quick acceptance among desktop users will be how well and easily they can shuttle in and out Microsoft Office applications under Linux, according to O'Grady.
"If you can use Star Office and the CrossOver product works and lets you run things like Internet Explorer without any trouble, then this offering will be more than good enough," O'Grady said.
What helps make the communication between Linux and Office transparent, company officials claim, is the inclusion of Codeweavers Crossover Office 2.0, which allows users to work with versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 97/2000/XP. Users can also use Outlook and Visio 2000 from within the Linux Desktop.
The Linux Desktop has been optimized to work hand in glove with many features and functions of the company's Linux Enterprise 8.0 server, which is built on the United Linux code base. One of the advantages to using the two products in tandem is it simplifies system administration of complex IT networks, company officials contend.
Bundled with the Linux Desktop are a number of tools that allow administrators of large systems to more easily install the product, including AutoYast and KDE Desktop Sharing. These tools allow administrators to remotely control the screens of many network hosts across different hardware platforms.
Also built into the desktop are interfaces that make it easier to access to applications servers and mainframes using SAP clients, Windows 2000 Terminal client, and IBM terminal emulators. The product also contains other mail clients such as KMail, Evolution, and Mozilla, along with a number of Web browsers, calendar, and data exchange features that work with personal digital assistants.
SuSE also announced the first hardware certifications for the Linux Desktop which includes IBM ThinkPads A31 and T40, in addition to IBM's NetVista desktop systems. The product has also garnered Linux Standards Base (LSB) certification, verifying its compliance to work with a range of Linux distributions.
SuSe Linux Desktop pricing has not been set, according to company officials.