Red Hat is putting the final touches on a new Linux desktop upgrade for corporate customers that will compete head-on with the recently released Novell Suse Linux 10.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 Desktop, which is expected to ship later this year, offers an improved desktop with enhanced graphics, OpenOffice 2.0, support for the Oasis file format, a new Access-like database application, improved wireless support and improved compatibility with Microsoft Office, according to a Red Hat document released at the company's recent summit.
RHEL 5 Desktop, the first major upgrade of the corporate desktop since version 4 shipped in January 2005, is based upon the Fedora 5 code. Fedora 5 was made available on the Web in March.
One IBM partner said obstacles to deployment remain, but added customers are beginning to grasp that Linux offers them a strong cost saving and tighter security on the desktop.
"I see many opportunities with clients that are looking to get away from the Microsoft desktop and Office," said Frank Basanta, director of technology at Systems Solutions, New York. "The only problems that can arise are where they are running a specific vertical market application that only runs on Windows."
Version 5's support for OpenOffice 2.0, Firefox 1.5 and Gnome 2.16 is expected to significantly improve the desktop experience for end users, Red Hat maintains. For instance, OpenOffice 2.0's support for the Oasis file format OpenDocument as well as a new slide-panel presentation user interface, new icons and theme/skin switching capabilities will make the desktop more compelling.
RHEL 5 Desktop's file manager, meanwhile, offers integrated search support, e-mail integration and allows users to share public directories over the local network.
The software also offers improved wireless support via the inclusion of a default Network Manager that will automatically connect the desktop to known networks. In addition, RHEL 5 will offer fully integrated VPN support.