Red Hat Launches New Desktop Linux

Red Hat chose London as the location to launch its new Linux software that is bundled with security and management features.

The new product, Red Hat Desktop, is targeted at organizations that are looking to upgrade their PCs but don’t want all the features that ship with the latest version of Microsoft Windows, Matthew Szulik, Red Hat’s chief executive, told journalists today.

“These organizations now, for the very first time, have an alternative to the historical Microsoft-desktop paradigm,” said Szulik during a news briefing in London.

German Insurance

Szulik also disclosed that the German insurance company LVM has begun pilot testing more than 8,000 Red Hat Desktop seats.

Szulik said the software will “exploit its back-end security and management services,” including Red Hat Network Proxy Server, or Red Hat Satellite Server, to differentiate the operating-system client’s security and management features from other Linux desktops and from Microsoft Windows software.

Szulik said these servers will enable multiple clients to be deployed simultaneously and will offer simplified security and system management. The executive noted that the bundle is expected to be available within two weeks and will cost US$3,500 for 50 desktops. This pricing also includes server software and enterprise subscription, the company said.

The company said that the first desktop is based on updated Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 code due within weeks.

During the briefing for technology journalists, Red Hat also announced partnerships with independent software vendors, including VMware, Citrix, Adobe, Macromedia and Real Networks.

Enhancing Red Hat

The deals are designed to enhance the productivity and interoperability of the Red Hat Desktop. The next version of Red Hat Desktop is due along with other Red Hat Enterprise 4.0 offerings early next year.

The just-announced desktop software provides users with Agfa monotype fonts, including Albandy, Cumberland and Thorndale; the Adobe Acrobat Reader and Plugin 5.08; Macromedia Flash Plugin 6.0.8, Citrix ICA Client 7.00 and RealPlayer 8.0.

This release follows a wide-ranging pact Red Hat and Wind River Systems disclosed two months ago, addressing the thin-client computing and the device marketplace.

The new Red Hat desktop allows for uniform development of clients for handhelds, call centers and embedded devices, the CEO said, speaking to the fact that some solutions providers are ambivalent about the viability of Linux on the desktop, laptop and device world, due to the huge installed base of Microsoft Windows and Office users.

Good Timing

Red Hat’s announcement today comes as Microsoft weighs possible delays to its plans to release Longhorn, the next version of Windows. The company said at the briefing that it hopes to take advantage of any production problems with Longhorn.

The desktop operating system supports Intel x86 chips as well as 64-bit-compatible AMD64 and Intel EM64T chip architectures.

Szulik said Red Hat Desktop is less expensive to administer than Microsoft’s offerings, and that it will cost on average about $5 a month per machine, with additional support services available. The product is targeted primarily at business users.

“What we wanted to was make sure that we were able to build a product that solved economic problems for customers,” he said.

The announcement is “further validation that Linux is good enough” for corporate use, said Ted Schadler, Forrester research analyst. “This is the first time in a long time that Microsoft is not a guaranteed winner in the corporate desktop.”

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