A Linux desktop should play to its strengths and not try to be a Windows clone in an attempt to replace Microsoft, according to Novell's Linux business strategist.
Matt Asay, director of Novell's Linux business office, which evaluates Linux projects for the company, said a new desktop should include innovative features.
"All enterprise Linux vendors are trying to push a Linux desktop that looks exactly like Microsoft [Windows desktop]. But it is difficult to compete with someone on his own territory," he said.
Instead, he said, a Linux desktop that played to its own strengths would work better and be more interesting.
Asay proposed a wider vision of the desktop that included small mobile devices.
He said a PDA now has the specification of a desktop from a few years ago, so in future a Linux PDA user could come into the office, connect their PDA to a large keyboard and PC screen and use it as a desktop.
"Why not faster, smaller and everything better than Microsoft?" he added.
And Asay predicted that the public sector, particularly in Asia, would drive the Linux desktop in the next 12 to 18 months, although for enterprises it would be "slow going".
Novell is currently merging features of Ximian's desktop with those of the SuSE Linux desktop following its acquisition of the two open source companies last year.
Asay said Linux was weakest in installation and ease of use but that these issues were being addressed.
But he pointed to a need for more applications to be written for Linux. "It is applications people are married to.
"It is not a big shift to get people to move between desktops. Users' first experience is Linux does not get the hang-ups [of Windows], nor is it so slow," he said.
Novell is migrating all its own data centre and desktop applications to Linux. The company has already migrated 5,000 employees to OpenOffice on Windows, as a stepping-stone to its desktop.
Asay claimed that if major vendors got behind OpenOffice the application had the potential to provide features beyond those in Microsoft Office.
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