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Desktop Linux 'will force Microsoft to innovate'

The open-source software movement will revitalise commercial software rather than undermine it, says Novell

Open source will force software vendors to create better products, but will not be its downfall, according to Novell.

Matt Asay, Novell's director of Linux business office, said on Tuesday at the Linux User and Developer Expo 2004 in London that Linux threatened the proprietory software industry with innovation, rather than extinction, and accused companies such as Microsoft of failing to come up with exciting new applications.

"When was the last time that Microsoft Office got significantly better? It's been pretty much the same product for a while now," claimed Asay, speaking at the Linux User and Developer Expo 2004 in London.

"As things stand, creativity has gone, and that's one reason that Linux on the desktop makes sense. It'll be good for Microsoft, too. They won't like it, but it will force them to innovate," Asay added.

Asay compared people who say that open source is bad for the software industry to titans of the music industry who opposed new technologies, such as the tape cassette and the VCR -- both of which generated billions of pounds in new revenue for record companies.

One of the key questions being addressed at the conference is the extent to which Linux can dominate the desktop PC market, and here at least one speaker felt that Microsoft had a few things to teach the open-source community. 

According to Linux distributer SUSE, one key factor in boosting the take-up of open source software is to eliminate obvious differences with Windows, and to emulate Microsoft's operating system where appropriate.

"Microsoft has more money to spend on usability than I do on research and development," said Christian Schlaeger, vice president of research and development at SUSE Linux.

"Some things are wrong, and we fix those, but there are some things they have done well."

Schlaeger told the conference that SUSE is aiming for a "flat learning curve" for users who migrate to Linux from other operating systems.