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Microsoft's delay with the release of Windows Vista has left enough wiggle room for other players to pursue the desktop operating system market. An old Microsoft rival, Novell, is angling to seize the day with the release of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, a desktop OS geared to beat Vista in cost, manageability and features.
But here's the real question: Is the channel ready for a Linux desktop as a replacement for Windows? Or better yet, is a Linux desktop ready for the channel? Novell has a head start in this race, with its Linux desktop expected to hit the streets by mid-July, whereas Vista is slated for general release in January.
System builders and solution providers sounded a note of caution on the new SUSE Linux, despite acknowledging that its price--expected to be about $50 with OpenOffice and other software bundled in--could kneecap the Microsoft model. Windows XP with Office can hit the $500 range, or higher.
Dave Morrill, Co-CEO of Assured Computing Technologies, a Bedford, N.H.-based system builder and solution provider, said he doesn't believe wide-scale migration from Microsoft to Linux will happen immediately, and customers who don't want to spring for Vista may simply stick with Windows XP rather than switch. However, Morrill said, once Microsoft stops supporting XP, it could be a different story.
"At that point, you're going to see a shift and a loss of customers for Microsoft," he said.
James Huang, a product manager for Amax Information Technologies, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder and contract manufacturer, called the Novell offering "exciting" and said it will be "a viable option for certain segments of the market." Yet from a systems integrator's point of view, he said, Linux requires a lot of support.
"The new Novell solutions will be good for people who cannot spend a ton of money on Vista-based systems," Huang said. "But somebody has to support it. Who's going to stand behind it?"
Shipping dates and other things aside, the only way to find out if Novell has a chance against Microsoft is to have Vista Beta 2 and the pre-release version of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 slug it out in a head-to-head comparison. And the CRN Test Center engineers did just that. Here's what we found.
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