Novell hopes its next desktop will leapfrog Windows

The software company claims that its upcoming desktop Linux release beats Windows in terms of usability - at least until Vista comes along
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

Novell on Thursday unveiled the features that will be available in the next version of its Linux desktop product — SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop — which it claims will be more usable than any other desktop product on the market.

"We have made a big investment taking the Linux desktop past everybody. The usability work we've done is not to reinvent Windows, but to reinvent a better desktop," Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, Novell's director of marketing for Linux and open source, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

"When Microsoft Vista ships it will catch up to us in a number of areas, but we'll enjoy six months where Novell's Linux desktop is in the lead," he said.

The SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED), which will be available in Summer 2006, is a "big change for Linux" as it is now suitable for all enterprise users, according to Mancusi-Ungaro.

"Up until now the Linux desktop has primarily been deployed in specialised circumstances — as a fixed function workstation or as a transactional desktop," he said. "Now, for first time, we can tell you with confidence, that it can be deployed for general office workers."

Important new features in SLED include an animated user interface and integrated desktop search.

Other features that Novell is touting in the product include the addition of support for Microsoft Excel Macros and Pivot Tables in OpenOffice.org, and full support for all standard network and printing protocols, allowing plug and play functionality for cameras, USB drives, personal music players and printers.

The animated GUI takes advantage of the XGL graphics software, which Novell made available to the open source community last month. The GUI makes the Linux desktop more usable, for example, by providing visual cues to users when they minimise windows, according to Mancusi-Ungaro.

"When users minimise windows to the panel at the bottom of the screen they will see it move there rather than vanish, so users are more aware of where they have put something," he said.

As for desktop search, although the Beagle tool is already available in SuSE Linux Professional 9.3, this is the first time that Novell is offering seven years support around the product.

Novell carried out hundreds of usability tests and shot almost 1,500 hours of user interaction video to aid the design of SLED. It claimed that each feature of the product has been "rigorously tested and refined for usability to ensure the best possible performance in a business environment". The results of the usability tests can be viewed on Novell's Better Desktop Web site.

Editorial standards