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Red Hat To Deliver Linux For The Desktop

Operating system looks to go head-to-head with Windows, but it won't be easy

Red Hat last week promised to deliver on a new desktop version of its popular Linux operating system, but the company may face an uphill battle as it tries to displace the familiar Windows user interface and applications. Red Hat's announcement comes as Microsoft wrestles with possible delays in its 2006 release of Longhorn, the next version of Windows.

Companies for years could run open-source desktop apps through Web browsers that reach back to Linux running on a server. Red Hat Desktop is expected to provide the key management and security components in a Linux operating system that runs directly on users' PCs.

Scheduled for availability by the end of the month, Red Hat Desktop includes Evolution E-mail, Mozilla browser, OpenOffice 1.1 office productivity, instant messaging, and Agfa Monotype font software. It also provides firewall protection and the capability for IT managers to shut off certain ports into and out of PCs.

Red Hat Desktop will be available in either proxy-server or satellite-server configurations. The proxy starter pack is priced at $2,500 for 10 subscriptions and management modules; the satellite starter pack costs $13,500 for 50 subscriptions and management modules.

Unlike the Linux server market, where expensive RISC-based systems can be replaced with Intel-based servers, most PCs are interchangeable. As a result, businesses aren't rewarded for blazing trails on the desktop, says Mark Baltes, second VP of technical services at Windows user Minnesota Life Insurance. "We'll be a market leader in technology where it provides some competitive advantage for our business."

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