Novell Targets Microsoft with Linux Desktop 9

In a move to steal market share from Microsoft Windows, Novell has unveiled Linux Desktop 9. The company claims the new release is robust enough to offer a viable alternative for enterprise Windows users. At the same time, the company also announced of settlement of its antitrust suit against its desktop rival.

“In recent years, the IT industry has been asking when Linux will be ready to take on the desktop,” Jack Messman, Novell chairman and CEO, said. “Novell is focusing its enterprise desktop efforts on Linux deployments where users can gain the most benefit.”

Messman said Novell’s Linux Desktop is not about the wholesale replacement of Windows systems, but about identifying where and when an open-source desktop can be a sensible, cost-effective alternative.

Linux Desktops Compete

Illuminata’s Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider that Desktop 9 makes the most sense on transactional desktops, where data entry or information retrieval is the primary use of the machine. Call centers and service counters are two of Novell’s primary targets.

“Novell has competition from Sun and Red Hat Linux desktops, but to the degree that Linux sees continual growth on the desktop, there is going to be plenty of market for all those players to capture,” Haff said.

Indeed, while IDC reports Linux’s market share of the desktop is currently less than 3 percent, that is expected to change over the next 18 to 24 months. IDC is predicting a 16 percent compounded annual growth rate between now and 2007.

Gaining Desktop Momentum

Haff said the bigger challenge is gaining market share and mind share for Linux on the desktop in general. That means shaving some points off of Microsoft’s 95 percent of the desktop market. Just how will Linux desktop providers do it?

“Linux desktop providers need to educate the market and create products that are easy to install and administer,” Haff said. “Really, it comes down to convincing companies that they will save money even given all the retraining cost by using these products.”

Linux Desktop 9 will be available Friday and includes the SuSE Linuxoperating system, Novell’s version of the OpenOffice productivity suite; the Novell Evolution e-mail and calendaring software; and the Firefox Web browser.

Novell is expecting government and education customers to be early adopters of its Linux desktop and is leveraging partnerships with Intel, AMD and IBM to push its latest offering forward.

“Intel-based systems are the platforms for the next generation of software innovation, enterprise solutions and new computing models,” said Intel Channel Software Operation Vice President Shane Wall. “Novell Linux Desktop combined with Intel-based personal computers provides IT professionals the opportunity to deploy Linux for demanding users in enterprises worldwide.”

“As part of IBM’s client strategy to enable Linux on a range of devices for customers, IBM supports Novell’s vision of offering customers choice based on Linux and open source,” IBM Vice President of Worldwide Linux Scott Handy said. “Novell Linux Desktop is aligned with IBM’s industry focus and is designed to interoperate both within or outside of a customer’s organization.”

“AMD has always been an advocate of choice and supports Novell Linux Desktop 9, which empowers businesses to leverage open-source solutions with confidence,” said Ben Williams, AMD vice president of the Enterprise and Server/Workstation Business of AMD’s Microprocessor Business Unit. “As Linux deployment becomes more pervasive, AMD is working with Novell to lead the industry to extremely powerful computing for desktop enterprise users.”

More Microsoft Lawsuits

While Novell is playing nice with tech partners, the company is stillwarring with Microsoft on antitrust issues. Novell today announced a US$536 million cash settlement with Microsoft that will close its potential antitrust litigation related to Novell’s NetWare operating system.

“We are pleased that we have been able to resolve a portion of our pending legal issues with Microsoft,” said Joseph A. LaSala, Jr., Novell’s senior vice president and general counsel. “This is a significant settlement, particularly since we were able to achieve our objectives without filing expensive litigation.”

However, the battle isn’t over yet. Novell today also announced it will file an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft related to WordPerfect claims. Linsata said after failed discussions with Microsoft, Novell will aggressively pursue its claims for the harm caused to Novell’s business.

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