Novell has updated Ximian Desktop 2, its end-user software for Unix-based systems, adding more applications and tweaking the product for use with Novell's recently acquired SuSE Linux operating system.
Novell acquired Ximian and SuSE in the latter half of last year, and the move is a significant step in turning Ximian's and SuSE's products into an integrated whole. Ximian Desktop 2 previously supported Red Hat Linux distributions. The acquisitions are part of Novell's ambitious strategy to refocus the company around Linux as a way of competing with Microsoft, Sun and others.
Ximian Desktop provides a graphical user interface for Unix-based operating systems such as Linux, polishing technology from the Gnome project. The software includes a suite of applications customised to have a consistent look and feel -- not always the case with Linux applications -- and supporting Microsoft file formats.
SuSE has previously focused its graphical user interface efforts on KDE, a rival to Gnome -- for example adding tweaks to the interface in a project backed by the German federal government.
The updated Desktop 2, announced on Tuesday, adds the latest version of the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, version 1.1, and the GAIM instant-messaging client, and also includes standard features such as the Red Carpet software-management system, Mozilla-based Galeon Web browser and Evolution, the Outlook-compatible groupware client.
The most important tweak is support for SuSE's latest distributions, SuSE Linux Desktop and SuSE Linux 9.0. Desktop 2 also supports Red Hat Linux 7.3, 8.0, or 9.
The software is available now for a free download or $99 (£55) purchase from Ximian's Web site. The paid version includes support and a premium Red Carpet download service.
Novell launched Novell Nterprise Linux Services 1.0, its first Linux-based desktop services package, last month, centering on delivery of file, print, messaging, directory and management services on Linux, along with associated support, training and consulting services.
At the time of the SuSE buyout, Novell announced that it had also received a $50m investment from IBM, a major Linux backer, and the network software maker was an early combatant in SCO Group's ongoing legal battle against Linux.
Last month Novell joined the Open Source Development Labs, one of the main groups promoting the business use of Linux and other open-source software. In addition to testing and developing the Linux kernel, the heart of the operating system, OSDL directs numerous projects aimed at creating enterprise-focused Linux and provides legal representation for Linus Torvalds, the originator of the software.
Novell's UK sales director, Ben Bulpett, said in a recent interview that UK companies are showing renewed interest in Novell and see it as real alternative to Microsoft due to the combination of network management tools and SuSE Linux it can now offer.
"I always said Novell could be a cool company again. There's a real feeling in the office at the moment that sometime in the future we'll be able to look back and say 'I was with Novell when everything changed after we acquired SuSE'," he said.
CNET News.com's Matt Hines and ZDNet UK's Andrew Donoghue contributed to this report.