Novell has started shipping a desktop version of Linux that is designed for business users and comes with a bundled set of open-source applications as well as technical support, training and consulting options.
The rollout of Novell Linux Desktop 9 follows a similar desktop release by Red Hat and furthers the efforts of Linux vendors to give users more viable client-level alternatives to Windows.
Until now, Novell offered a desktop product only for Linux enthusiasts and open-source developers. Users familiar with the existing software said they welcomed the release of the business-oriented version but weren't sure whether their companies would install Novell Linux Desktop 9 on more than one or two machines.
Novell Linux Desktop 9 is built on the base technology used in the Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9 operating system, which Novell acquired along with the existing desktop version when it bought Suse Linux in January.
Novell will make the new software available through its channel partners at an annual fee of $US50 per system, which includes updates but not technical support, director of marketing for Novell Linux Desktop, Ted Haeger, said.
Novell was bundling OpenOffice.org's desktop applications, the Mozilla Web browser and other software into the desktop Linux release. But the company was not going after the Windows power user, Haeger said.
"We are not trying to get into a big David-and-Goliath battle with Windows," he said.
Novell Linux Desktop 9 was best suited for fixed-function systems in call centres or on shop floors, and engineering applications and replacements of Unix workstations, Haeger said.
Forrester Research analyst, Simon Yates, contrasted the $US50 annual fee for Novell Linux Desktop 9 with the purchase prices of up to $US500 that users have to pay for Microsoft's Windows XP and Office software. But if users were heavily locked into Windows systems, chances were slim that they would consider deploying many Linux desktops, he said.