The launch of Microsoft's Vista operating system will see a major push by open source vendors to encourage companies to defect to their software.
He explained that many companies fear the disruption that a move to open source would entail, but that Vista's launch will give IT managers a reason to make the transition from Windows.
"We think that the opportunity [for open source] is when Vista comes on to the market," said Messman.
"That will be the momentum that pushes Linux to the desktop. The cost of transitioning from XP to Vista will be more than moving to open source."
Messman acknowledged that Novell's open source office suite had slightly fewer features than Microsoft Office, but insisted that this is actually an advantage since basic functions are covered and employees had fewer features to distract them.
Sales of Novell's Linux software into businesses have so far been mainly in developing regions, such as eastern Europe and the Far East, where little or no modern infrastructure exists and the markets are more price sensitive.
Recent Novell Linux Desktop customers include SEB Eesti Uhispank, the largest bank in Estonia.
The biggest growth areas are in high-end 'big iron' applications such as data centres where scalability is important, and very low-end applications like point-of-sale computers and terminals.
"There is a lot of legacy technology in that market," explained Brian Green, director of solutions management for Novell EMEA.
"Margins are also incredibly tight so, if you can make the case of a cost saving and updated software, it's a very powerful argument for the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury's."
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