Last week, Microsoft admitted it was developing a cut-down version of Windows XP, codenamed Eiger, that could be deployed by companies on very old hardware to replace older versions of Windows that are no longer supported and pose a security risk. However, SuSE Linux vendor Novell said the move was a direct response to the growing threat from Linux.
Paul Kangro, solutions manager for Asia Pacific at Novell said that Microsoft is trying to "stall the market" to ensure the software giant keeps a firm grip on the corporate desktop.
"I suspect this is more a reaction to Linux than anything else. It is nice to see Microsoft responding to the market and threat of Linux and taking it seriously. You might be tempted to say that this is a tactic to stall the market place to ensure its entrenched position remains where it is," said Kangro.
However, Michael Sager, PC hardware analyst at IDC Australia, told ZDNet Australia that Microsoft is more likely to be targeting thin client alternatives rather than taking a direct shot at the Linux desktop.
"I don't see it as being a retaliation for Linux... If you look at an environment that has Windows 98 and even to a degree 2000, those users, just by the fact that that are using such a dated OS are not going to have the in-house expertise to run any complex client device software. It is targeted at those potentially looking at moving to a thin client environment," said Sager.
Research group Gartner said in an advisory posted Monday Microsoft was expected to charge as much for Eiger as it does for each copy of Windows XP Professional. Additionally, the company warns that Eiger will be no more immune to malware than the regular desktop versions of Windows.
"We do not expect Microsoft to price Eiger lower than Windows XP Pro... If you don't use disk protection technology, Eiger will be no more immune to spyware and malware than XP Service Pack 2," the Gartner advisory said.
The price factor alone could backfire for Microsoft, said IDC's Sager, who believes that companies with old hardware are likely to look elsewhere.
"If the cost of [Eiger] is the same as a copy of XP pro it would be a barrier to entry and people would definitely be less likely to buy it... You would be more apt to move to a solution that can address your security but also address the costs," said Sager.
Novell's Kangro concluded that regardless of when Microsoft releases Eiger and however much it decides to charge, there will already be a lower cost open source alternative.
"To say this is some new technology is not really the case. It has been around for some time and in embedded Linux systems for many years. It is about freedom of choice -- that is what Linux provides. It is not an excuse to give a company more time to deliver on promises," said Kangro.