In its new corporate desktop, Red Hat also is trying to dazzle new users with improved digital camera integration, support for encrypted USB peripherals and use of Accelerated Indirect GLX. New applications include the Evince document reader, Totem and Ekiga, an open-source phone-to-PC feature.
Red Hat did not respond to calls for comment on this story.
Some solution providers say Red Hat and Novell may have an easier time trying to convince large enterprise customers to move to the Linux desktop but predict it will be a difficult sell in the SMB market.
"Unfortunately, we don't see any opportunity for it. We're an SMB shop. Even the most inexperienced SMB end user is going to balk at it when confronted with the unfamiliar look and steep learning curve," said Daniel Haurey, principal at Exigent Technologies, Morristown, N.J. "I'm sure that the folks at Red Hat would love to liken it to switching from gas-powered to hybrid, but I think the reality is that it's more like going from driving to work to walking."
Some observers say interoperability problems with Microsoft Office continue to hinder Linux's growth on the desktop. The key problems, which Red Hat and Novell are trying to solve, include poor Microsoft document conversion, particularly Excel, and "mediocre" connectivity to Exchange.
According to a recent survey conducted by CRN, solution providers polled said 11 percent of their installed base of end users run Linux as their primary desktop, 85 percent run Windows and the other 4 percent run other clients.
While that indicates increasing opportunity, the survey also suggests that Red Hat, the leader in the Linux server market, may have a tougher time competing against Novell on the Linux desktop front.
According to the survey, for example, 62 percent of respondents said they think Suse Linux Desktop 10 is or will be a viable alternative to Windows Vista as a desktop PC platform, while only 35 percent of the same population believes Red Hat is a viable alternative to Windows.