Linux vendor SuSE has claimed that demand from enterprises prompted it to release a desktop product and that take-up will grow rapidly, according to chief executive Richard Seibt.
His comments represent a direct challenge to analyst Giga Information Group, which last week asserted that even experimenting with alternatives to Windows on the desktop before 2005 could be a costly mistake.
Speaking as the SuSE Linux Desktop for enterprises was released, Seibt told vnunet.com: "When asked to deliver a desktop, I didn't take it seriously for five months. But large enterprises do take it seriously.
"There are many opportunities where customers want to change for reasons of budget, independence and so on. The issue is not about operating systems but productivity applications."
For instance, many had changed their applications to being Java-based, which made them well suited to a non-Windows desktop. For some, feeling the IT budget pain, senior management was beginning to say 'just do it', he added.
But Bloor Research senior analyst Tony Lock commented: "Every company is different. I don't doubt there are some companies wanting a Linux enterprise-class desktop for reasons such as cost.
"But some will use it as a lever to get the leading provider [i.e. Microsoft] to reduce its prices."
He explained that the main issues were usability and manageability. "Keeping the desktop up and running is no mean task. This is true for Microsoft as well," he said, adding that SuSE had clearly considered these in the new product.
SuSE Linux Desktop is optimised for deployment in large-scale enterprises and organisations with multiple locations. It uses the same code base as the server product and is certified for the Linux Standards Base.
Although Sun StarOffice 6.0 and OpenOffice 1.0.2 come bundled, Microsoft applications including Office, Outlook and Visio 2000, plus Lotus Notes, are available using Codeweavers' CrossOver Office 2.0.
"If 44,000 employees of Sun can work with StarOffice, and can exchange any document with their customers, there is no good argument not to do it," stated Seibt.
The price of £384 for five workstations includes 12 months' free maintenance and an installation kit. Upgrades are available immediately through SuSE Maintenance Web.
Two weeks ago the City of Munich decided to move its 14,000 desktops to Linux. SuSE confirmed that this meant it would be using SuSE Linux Desktop.
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