It has been predicted that the number of available Linux distributions will continue to increase until they reach a 1:1 ratio with the general populace. That may be an exaggeration, but it sometimes seems like it could happen if you watch the Linux community closely. Novell is adding to the count by launching the Novell Linux Desktop 9, or NLD among friends. Actually, NLD is based on SUSE, but it's a slimmer version than the retail SUSE Linux Professional which comes with more packages than any sane person would hope to use. I'm optimistic about Novell's chances of putting Linux on corporate desktops, in the long term. Sun's so-called Java Desktop was somewhat underwhelming when I reviewed it, and Sun's on-again, off-again commitment to Linux makes the company an unlikely champion for Linux in the enterprise. Though Red Hat has done great things for Linux on the server, the company has been somewhat undercommitted to Linux on the desktop. But Novell's purchase of SUSE and Ximian puts it in a ideal position to push Linux for desktop use. I've been using Evolution, OpenOffice and SUSE for years, and watching them grow into suitable replacements for Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows. What Linux needs now is a very strong commitment from a large company like Novell to start putting Linux on a large number of corporate desktops. Novell's plan of targeting limited-use workstations, or companies that already use Unix-based workstations, is a good start. Users who have been using Unix workstations are typically open to using Linux (if they aren't already), and Linux is ideal for single-use PCs that serve to run a limited number of applications. It will still be a while before Linux is seen as suitable to replace Windows on multi-function desktops. But, by getting a foot in the door now, Novell can start angling for a bigger share of the workplace down the road much the same way that Linux has worked its way into the server room by starting with small projects to eventually dominating many companies' infrastructure.
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