"Desktop Linux has to cohabitate with Windows today," says Ted Haeger, Novell's director of project management. In fact, the company projects it will take as long as five years before a desktop version of Linux is capable of displacing Windows in any significant way.
Desktop 9, which starts at $50 per desktop, includes Novell's edition of OpenOffice.org productivity applications, the Mozilla Firefox Web browser, Evolution software for collaborating with Windows, and Zenworks Linux Management. OpenOffice includes word-processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications that create files compatible with Windows desktop applications. Evolution, a product originally developed by Ximian, integrates E-mail, calendaring, contact management, and task lists much the same way as Microsoft Exchange.
"We're asking companies to assess their desktop situation and find out if there's a place where desktop Linux fits," Haeger says. Users most likely to find Linux a strong substitute for Windows are those using fixed-function workstations that run a single application, such as airline reservation or point-of-sale systems. Other candidates would be workstation users or application developers.
Looking ahead, Novell wants to make use of its iFolder file-management software to improve desktop-to-desktop collaboration. The vision that Novell plans to unfold over the next six to nine months is one that will let people share files directly rather than through E-mail, Haeger says. Novell will in February include iFolder software as part of its Open Enterprise Server Linux-based operating system.