Novell Releases Latest Linux Kernel in SuSE 9.1

Adding to what the company says is a successive list of firsts for Linux, Novell has released SuSE Linux 9.1 Professional and Personal, the first retail offerings of the 2.6 Linux kernel.

For Linux novices, Novell is providing a new LiveCD disc that allows them to test and familiarize themselves with Linux, plus a second CD that then can be used simply to install SuSE Linux Personal — which can run on a partition alongside Windows or as the only OS on the drive.

For the other end of the Linux user base, the professional version of SuSE Linux 9.1 is a comprehensive edition with network and server functionality that supports 32-bit and 64-bit processors from AMD and Intel.

“Seasoned Linux users get the power of 64-bit computing and more than 2,500 software packages,” said Novell’s general manager of SuSE Linux. “Linux beginners can take advantage of 9.1’s LiveCD, which requires no installation. For veterans or beginners, SuSE Linux has it all.”

Value of First

What Novell does not have, however, is the market share of rival Red Hat, which also has built 2.6 Linux kernel capabilities into its commercially available software, according to Bill Claybrook, vice president of Linux strategy for Harvard Research Group.

He told LinuxInsider that although Novell (which is in second place to Red Hat in terms of Linux distribution numbers) can claim being first with the 2.6 kernel in a retail package, the company, which recently acquired SuSE, still faces a serious challenge in acquiring more market share.

“I think that SuSE getting out early is an advantage,” Claybrook said. “How much of an advantage in the marketplace is the question. Red Hat still has a huge advantage over SuSE.”

The Real Thing

Claybrook also questioned the reality of Novell’s claim to be “providing the only significant retail Linux products on the market” with 2.6 kernel technology, as Red Hat has included the new kernel in the form of back-porting to the 2.4 kernel in current distributions.

However, Novell’s Joe Eckert defended the significance of SuSE Linux 9.1, telling LinuxInsider that only the actual 2.6 kernel — not a back port — delivers the improved capabilities and performance.

“Certainly there’s been plenty of back-porting of 2.6 into 2.4, but that’s never a substitute for the real thing,” Eckert said, adding that the company is used to being first with carrier-grade, 64-bit, security-certified Linux software.

Novell said the 9.1 versions — which include text processing, spreadsheet and drawing applications as well as Internet, e-mail, graphics, audio and video software — were able to include 2.6 kernel capabilities more quickly because of the company’s multiplatform autobuild technology.

Linux Skittish and the Latest

Novell said its personal edition of SuSE Linux 9.1 is ideal for customers wanting Linux exclusively on the desktop and includes a user manual to help newcomers get acquainted with the Linux world.

“People who want to test Linux out but were skittish about installing it can play a disc, and if they like it, there’s another CD for them to install it,” Eckert said.

For more experienced professional and corporate users, Eckert said, the pro version will deliver improved memory management, threading and, of course, 64-bit support.

SuSE Linux 9.1 ships with both the Gnome 2.4.2 and KDE 3.2.1 Linux graphical desktop environments and will be available the first week of May, with the personal version priced at US$29.95 and the professional software selling for $59.95.

Eckert said Novell is optimistic about the release, especially on the basis of its success with the 9.0 release of last year, which included a test version of the 2.6 kernel.

“A large portion of people who bought [9.0] played around with the kernel and just absolutely loved it,” he said. “9.0 was our bestselling release ever — that test kernel had something to do with it.”

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