Calling it a “migration product” intended to take desktop users away from Windows and toward 64-bit computing and the new 2.6 Linux kernel, SuSE Linux has announced its 9.0 desktop update will be available next month.
The German software maker said SuSE Linux 9.0 will provide support for both 32- and 64-bit computing via the AMD Athlon 64 processor and will make migration easier by supporting the NTFS file systems used in Microsoft Windows XP and NT.
The desktop Linux update, to be available October 24th, also will provide some backported features of the new 2.6 Linux kernel and is aimed at new Linux users and at enterprise administrators who have experience with Linux on the server side, SUSE spokesperson Joe Eckert told LinuxInsider.
“We’re finding more and more interest in the desktop,” Eckert said, referring to one SuSE client that plans to migrate more than 100,000 desktop computers from Windows to Linux.
Gearing Up for Growth
Yankee Group senior analyst Dana Gardner told LinuxInsider that several things — government use, security concerns, price and cost issues — indicate Linux on the desktop could be coming of age.
“It’s all adding up to expectations of a growth spurt,” Gardner said. “Also, the fact that there are more features and functions available on Linux [is a good sign].”
Referring to a low beginning base for Linux, Gardner said updates such as SuSE’s increasingly are offering the ability to merge Windows and Linux platforms as well as the capability to work with or around familiar applications.
Ease, Cost, Experience
Gardner said the most significant aspects of the SuSE 9.0 update include its ease of use, cost and integration with existing IT resources, which could give the software a wide administrative base.
SuSE’s Eckert highlighted the 64-bit support, which includes backward-compatibility for 32-bit applications, NTFS support — intended for new Linux users — and a 2.6 Linux kernel “sneak peek” that includes improved scheduling, sound architecture and power-management support for more advanced Linux users.
The SuSE Linux 9.0 bundle, priced at US$40 for the personal version and $80 for the professional version, includes the latest KDE interface and Internet browser, OpenOffice 1.1 and broadened driver support to give users the ability to run Windows modems and USB-connected devices such as digital cameras.
Connection and Cost
Gardner, who said desktop Linux use will be most prevalent among “border workers” or “edge workers” who perform specialized tasks in corporate offices, connected the anticipated growth of Linux on the desktop to its inroads on the server side.
Linux could realize even greater cost gains if companies have a common kernel and common specialty among both server and client machines, according to Gardner.
Eckert, who referred to 300,000 quarterly sales of its Linux desktop software, said the company is seeing a connection between server and desktop software customers.
Keeping Windows Open
On the consumer side, Eckert said, SuSE’s ease of migration would enable Windows users to easily repartition hard disk space and use Linux on the desktop, but still maintain access to Windows when needed.
“You can open a document or a music file or picture and very easily cross over into that Windows partition and open up the file,” he said.
Gardner said Linux might still be the bastion of more technically savvy users for the time being, but he indicated the major Linux desktop updates are addressing lingering issues, such as remote administration, integration across other applications, the need for drivers and ease of use.
Delivering for Dell?
Gardner, who referred to similar Linux desktop moves by Red Hat and Novell, also said the open-source operating system might even play a role in the “desktop war” between HP and Dell.
“Linux could add a very interesting piece to that price and market share war,” Gardner told LinuxInsider. “If Dell says it wants Linux PCs, some vendor’s going to step up to the plate and give it to them.”
Eckert said SuSE is selling its Linux desktop software preloaded on machines from Microtel at Wal-Mart and is working on deals with other manufacturers.