Oracle's Ellison Weighs In On Linux On The Desktop

Vendors including SuSE, Sun and Red Hat prep enterprise products

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Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison last week said Linux is not a viable alternative on the desktop yet,but it's getting close.

Ellison used the stage during an Oracle event here to square off against archrival Microsoft, claiming that the increasing quality of Sun Microsystems' StarOffice and the open-source Mozilla browser will reduce Microsoft's monopoly of the Intel-based desktop.

While many are skeptical about those claims, Linux vendors including SuSE Linux, Sun and Red Hat are trying to make that happen as they prepare enterprise Linux desktops for release later this year. The vendors intend to address a hole that has limited corporate adoption of Linux,the lack of support for Windows applications and Microsoft server environments.

SuSE, a member of the UnitedLinux alliance, plans to unveil in early June its first enterprise desktop, said Rafael Laguna, vice president of marketing and business development. The offering, expected to be priced at about $120 per year, will offer Windows interoperable fonts and include Code-Weavers' CrossOver Office 2.1, which will make the Linux client a better citizen in a Microsoft environment, said SuSE executives. SuSE unveiled a corporate desktop for small and midsize businesses last month.

Sun, for its part, plans to debut in June its long-awaited Linux desktop, code-named Mad Hatter, which incorporates Sun ONE technologies and enhanced StarOffice. The offering was originally slated to ship in the first quarter.

Red Hat, whose Red Hat 8 and recently released Red Hat 9 have been deployed in customer sites by IBM Global Services, plans to debut an enterprise desktop later in the year as part of its enterprise portfolio of products, the company has said. The enterprise version is expected to include an e-mail client that can access Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes.

Ellison said Linux is poised to take off on the desktop as Linux office productivity applications improve. When there's a viable alternative to Office, "all hell's going to break loose" for Microsoft, he said.

Some solution providers said the availability of enterprise Linux desktops from SuSE, Sun and Red Hat will offer a cost benefit that companies can't ignore.

"This is where there are potentially very large savings for most companies.

If you think about it, the fully licensed burden of a Microsoft solution is around $800 in just software, for each desktop, even at volume discounts," said Chris Maresca, senior partner at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Olliance Group, citing an approximate cost for an Open License 6.0 desktop that includes licenses for Windows XP and Office XP, as well as Windows server, Exchange and SQL client access licenses.

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