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Head To Head: Novell SUSE Linux Vs. Windows Vista

Microsoft's delay in releasing Windows Vista has drawn attention to one of its competitors: Novell, says its SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 can beat Vista in cost, manageability and features. We put those claims to the test -- find out what we learned in this head-to-head comparion of the two desktop OSes.
Installing third-party applications is a breeze with Vista. There are a plethora of commercial and noncommercial apps readily available, and for the most part, all can be installed with just a couple of mouse clicks.

But that's one area where SUSE Linux falls flat on its face. Although installing applications directly available from Novell tends to be straightforward, third-party applications are another story. The problem arises because so many versions of Linux are available and can sport a variety of GUIs. With Linux, there really is no such thing as a "simple install," at least when compared with the worlds of Windows and Macintosh.

For example, when locating an application for installation, you need to decipher terms such as RPM, DEB, TAR and TGZ. For SUSE, RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) is the route to follow. Installation of an application can be done in one of two ways: using a graphical installation tool or from a terminal session. SUSE offers a simple installer called Install Software as the graphical installation program. After downloading an RPM, the application can be installed by a right click. While Install Software does install the software, users will be faced with the challenge of finding and running the application. No shortcuts to the executable are created, and no hints are given as to what to do next.

One of the biggest concerns with Windows has been security. With that in mind, Microsoft has put security at the top of the list with Vista, and the Beta 2 release shows that commitment.

Linux, by nature, does not have the multitude of vulnerabilities that Windows users have suffered with, so security has always been an easier task with the open-source OS. And Novell is taking the necessary steps to protect users with SUSE Linux.

With security, the market--or most likely, the hacker community--will determine the winner in the security wars. Microsoft's biggest burden comes from the fact that Windows is everywhere, making it a target. As Linux becomes more popular, the same problem may very well occur.

The basic question here is, can solution providers count on Linux to fill the gaps? The simple answer is yes.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 has the feature set, compatibility and flexibility to meet the needs of most corporate desktop users. What's more, at a price point roughly one-tenth of what Vista and Office 2007 will cost, SUSE Linux becomes harder to ignore.

That said, there still will be challenges. Channel players will need to train employees and customers on Linux, equivalent applications may not exist in the Linux world to meet line-of-business needs, and inherent complexities can slow the adoption of Linux.

Microsoft delivers what corporate desktop users need as well, but also provides "the comfort of an old friend" factor, since most users are familiar with Windows.