The new version of Red Hat's desktop Linux offers better graphics; supports Open Office 2.0 and the OASIS file format, in addition to a new Access-like database application; and improves compatibility with Microsoft Office, the vendor says.
Even as Novell released its SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 desktop this week, rival Red Hat is putting the final touches on a new Linux desktop upgrade for delivery later this year.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Desktop, which is expected to move into beta testing within weeks, offers an improved desktop with enhanced graphics, Open Office 2.0, support for the Oasisfile format, a new Access-like database application, improved wireless support and improved compatibility with Microsoft Office, according to a Red Hat document on the new desktop released at the company's recent summit.
RHEL 5 Desktop, the first major upgrade of the corporate desktop since version 4 shipped in January of 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 he claimed customers are beginning to grasp that Linux offers them a strong cost saving and tighter security on the desktop.
"The only problems that can arise are where they are running a specific vertical market application that only runs on Windows, and companies will have to understand that they will have to do some cross training when it comes to this solution," said Frank Basanta, director of technology at Systems Solutions, New York, NY. "With regards to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 5, I see many opportunities with clients that are looking to get away from the Microsoft desktop and Office."
Red Hat maintains version 5's support for OpenOffice 2.0, Firefox 1.5 and GNOME 2.16 will significantly improve the desktop experience.
For instance. Open Office 2.0's support for the Oasis file format OpenDocument, new slide-panel presentation UI, new icons and theme/skin switching capabilities will make the desktop more cpompelling for end users. And support for GNOME 2.16 will support system and desktop notifications and speed up log-in times daramtically, Red Hat claims.
Chris Maresca, principal at the Olliance Group, an open source consulting firm in Palo Alto, Calif., noted that Linux is being used widely in call centers and as a replacement for the green-screen but interoperability problems with Microsoft Office, lack of SMB applications and retraining requirements continues to stymie its growth on the desktop.
Maresca said the key hindrances to Linux success on the desktop which Red Hat and Novell are apparently trying to solve " relate to poor Microsoft Office document conversion, particularly Excel, and "mediocre" connectivity to Exchange.
Red Hat is hoping to close the gap with RHEL 5. The Open Office 2.0X version in its desktop incorporates a new mail merge wizard and improved Microsoft Office compatibility.
In its new corporate desktop, Red Hat is also trying to dazzle new users with improved digital camera integration, support for encrypted USB peripherals and use of Aiglx, or Accelerated Indirect GLX (AIGLX), which is the foundation for GLX-acclerated effects.
Version 5 is also slated to fold in new applications including the Evince document reader, Totem player with support for WMA, WMV and MP3, F-spot digital photo browser and Ekiga, an open source phone-to-PC feature.
Red Hat did not respond to calls for comment on this story. At its annual Red Hat Summit early last month, however, company executives said they expect to released the entire Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 platform into beta testing this month.
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