SuSE's enterprise Linux desktop to ship this month

SuSE Linux AG plans to begin selling in about two weeks its enterprise desktop operating system.

The product, called SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop during its development phase, will ship under the name SuSE Linux Desktop and cost US$598 for five PCs, the minimum number of licenses that can be bought, said Holger Dyroff, SuSE's Americas general manager.

That price includes one year of maintenance for each license, which includes all updates and enhancements to the product. The maintenance period can be extended to five years at a cost of $89 for each of the additional four years. Discounts to this basic pricing structure kick in for high-volume purchases, he said.

SuSE Linux Desktop joins two other desktop operating systems from SuSE: SuSE Linux, designed for individual users, and SuSE Linux Office Desktop, aimed at small offices.

It is the company's recommended front end to its server operating system, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, because SuSE Linux Desktop was built to be "perfectly tuned" with it, SuSE said in a statement Monday.

SuSE Linux Desktop is designed for enterprise environments, from small 10-desktop installations to large deployments of over 100,000 PCs installed in multiple locations, according to SuSE.

As such, the operating system has been designed for automated and central administration, maintenance and deployment through internal functions and external tools.

SuSE Linux Desktop comes bundled with Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice 6.0 office suite, but can also run Microsoft Corp. Office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint through Codeweavers Inc.'s CrossOver Office 2.0. Printing and display compatibility with Microsoft fonts is provided through Agfa Monotype Corp. fonts. SuSE Linux Desktop can also run IBM Corp.'s Lotus Notes through the Codeweavers product.

SuSE Linux Desktop also comes with security functions, interfaces to application servers and mainframe systems, and support for a variety of SuSE and third-party system administration tools.

Microsoft has set the bar very high for enterprise desktop operating systems and SuSE had to come out with a product like this one in order to compete, said Ted Schadler, a Forrester Research Inc. analyst.

The features and capabilities in the SuSE product show a serious commitment on the company's part to the enterprise desktop market, he said.

"SuSE is a very serious, methodical company that when it engages in something, it doesn't do it half way," he said.

Key now for SuSE is to attract support for the operating system among the ISV (independent software vendor) community to generate a critical mass of applications around the product, not an easy task, considering Microsoft is so strong at it, Schadler said.

To accomplish this, SuSE must continue courting hardware providers, exploiting niche markets such as government and coming up with ways to support the ISVs so they will be motivated to create applications for SuSE Linux Desktop, Schadler said.

German life insurance company Stuttgarter Lebensversicherung is phasing out IBM Corp.'s OS/2 desktop operating system and will install SuSE Linux Desktop in about 1,300 PCs at over 20 locations in Germany this year, with more PCs in branch offices being migrated next year, Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE said Monday.

SuSE announced SuSE Linux Desktop in October 2002 and planned to ship it in this year's first quarter but delayed it until this month.

IBM's ThinkPad A31 and T40 and NetVista desktop computers will be certified this month as computers that have been proved to work well with SuSE Linux Desktop, SuSE said.

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