Linux Hits Microsoft Desktop

Conference news speaks of competing forces.

As I stepped into the exhibit hall of the LinuxWorld 2004 conference in late January, I wondered if someone might recognize me and throw an egg or two. But that didn’t happen. Indeed, at the center of the exhibit hall was one of the larger pavilions, by a well-known Gold Sponsor. This company isn’t famous for its Linux software, yet it was up for one of the major product awards being presented. Yup, you guessed it—Microsoft. The software Microsoft was nominated for was Services For Unix 3.5, and it was given away for free in every attendee’s conference bag.

Other Microsoft-related newsworthy products were also present. At the Microsoft pavilion, several additional Microsoft partners touted integration products, including a multiplatform virus vendor, authentication services and programming tools.

However, the sleeper of the show was a company many have forgotten about: Novell. Indeed, Novell’s acquisition of two major Linux players was the talk of the event. Novell is clearly planning a one-two-three punch combination to strike back at Microsoft.

1. The server. Novell’s taking on Microsoft head-on with its low-priced SuSE Linux distribution, featuring paid support.

2. Directory services. Look for the Linux-compatible eDirectory to compete with Active Directory.

3. The desktop. With its free Ximian Desktop 2 software, Novell is aiming its desktop product right between Redmond’s eyes.

Specifically, this free Ximian package comes with a nicely pre-configured OpenOffice (files are compatible with Microsoft’s Office), as well as the Ximian Evolution, an almost picture-perfect Outlook clone. There’s also a paid version of Evolution, which increases the number of supported fonts, has a slew of browser plug-ins, and includes paid support. Additionally, with another for-sale product, the Ximian Connector for Microsoft Exchange, you can connect Ximian Evolution directly to Exchange via native MAPI.

Is the Linux desktop coming of age? With OpenOffice and the Ximian tools, it’s getting closer. It’s still not quite there yet, but Novell is certainly poised to be one to watch in the battle against the Windows behemoth.

About the Author

Jeremy Moskowitz, a Group Policy MVP, is the Chief Propeller-Head for Moskowitz, Inc. and He is one of less than a dozen Microsoft MVPs in Group Policy. Since becoming one of the world's first MCSEs, he has performed Active Directory and Group Policy planning and implementations for some of the nation’s largest organizations. His latest books are Group Policy Fundamentals, Security, and Troubleshooting and Creating the Secure Managed Desktop: Group Policy, SoftGrid, and Microsoft Deployment and Management Tools.

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Mar 25, 2004 Ariel Argentina

To be honest, I still regret myself for not being able to get rid od Micro$oft's OS, even though I have a dual boot with Mandrake 9.2 and also a Notebook with mdk9.2 installed on it. But I'm sure the day will come; in fact, I'm already using OpenOfficeOrg1.1.0 at work! Linux rules, but Micro$oft's marketing campaign keeps keeping millons of users and enterprises captured by their b... (you know what I mean).

Thu, Mar 18, 2004 CERN-nobody EU

You can't argue with market share. Personal preferences is one thing but the dollar rules here. MS will continue to dominate because it is by far the peoples "better" choice. Linux (Open source) has quite a way to go before it can break into where the $$ is.

Wed, Mar 17, 2004 RS Anonymous

The comment about slackware is fair. The MS desktop hasn't improved much since 1997. The interoperation between the OS and software (common print drivers/fonts etc) and integration of Office programs is pretty much available on Linux/Star Office today. Upgrade Options like Word Perfect are available for Linux. Make network configuration management as easy as Windows and there will be a market for this alternative now that an Outlook alternative is available.

Wed, Mar 17, 2004 RS US

One way to look at it is this. Novell/ Linux/Open Office are offering a better product than Win 95/NT 4.0 and Office 97--the standard in 1997. They are closing the gap. Unseating the incumbent isn't easy. It happened to Word Perfect, Lotus and Novell etc. This market reality is the source of Redmond's paranoia. The execs there have seen many product cycles in IT and many behemoths have fallen.

Tue, Mar 16, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

microsoft can never, ever think of beating Linux. Microsoft can't even dream about it.

Sun, Mar 7, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

ha, i love the telltale invective flag: "M$"

Sat, Mar 6, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

Directory Services? Banyan had one that worked even better and that was before Novell could even spell NDS. It's not whether they had one, it's whether anyone understood the advantages or even saw the need for it. How many Fortune 1000 companies had a need for Directory services? How many bought Novell's offering? How much growth did it provide Novell? How many products have died even though they were perceived to be better (see Banyan)?

Thu, Mar 4, 2004 Hey DeaD UR ANUS

Hey DeaD, Get your pompus head out of your ASS

Thu, Mar 4, 2004 bigh1t Anonymous

hey DeaD,

Microsoft will continue to own the desktop because most linux distro's don't have good automatic installers. Until mom and pop can install linux without having to take a course or, heaven forbid, try to search through countless newsgroup postings Microsoft will keep control.
Once the install is hands-off then MS will have big problems.

Thu, Mar 4, 2004 John Rogers (DeaDGoD) Seattle

MSFT will not always own the desktop, Linux is slowly spreading out due to disenchanted Windows users who are tired of having to pay so much for a "newer and better" release. Especially when the "better" release is a rip-off, full of bugs, or both.

I know that I (and many others that I know) would rather download the Slackware 9.2 packages (or pay $40 for the CDs) rather than go out and spend ~$500 for WinXP Reloaded.

More so, if there's something missing in Slackware that I need, I can easily write the software/drivers. Rather than have to get permission from MSFT and get the item licensed...

Thu, Mar 4, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

2. Directory services. Look for the Linux-compatible eDirectory to compete with Active Directory.

This must be the author’s first time looking up from his blue world and seeing Novell. Novell has had a cross platform directory for years! Where is the cross platform version of Active Directory?

Thu, Mar 4, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

Microsoft owns the desktop and always will. Linux makes a great server, sometimes.

Mon, Mar 1, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

The life cycle of the file formats themselves and whether they are documented and open is a big issue. Even if you stick with the various versions of M$ file formats, at some point your organization and business will need to go back and migrate all legacy records at great cost, effort, and potential loss of formatting/ layout/ metatdata.

Sun, Feb 29, 2004 dizzy lizzy datacenterC

welll Im gonna present my Linux distro at a MS conference when I'm finished!!! Its gonna be for users who are just fresh off of windows.

Sun, Feb 29, 2004 Guidono Chicago

Yup, micro$oft has come to the stage of begging others to buy their products (giving SFU for free).
Linux! you're really great. Even I am considering to uninstall Windows and install you.

Sat, Feb 28, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

It would never happen. Michael Robertson would froth at the mouth before having anything to do with the hated enemy. Even if it did, Microsoft devotees would be less interested in talking to a shyster company run by a guy whose business plan consists of selling other people ideas, than talking to people from a real Linux distro.

Fri, Feb 27, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

I wonder what the reception to Lindows putting a display at a Microsoft conference would be? Would they, too, be up for an award or be talked to rationally by Microsoft devotees?

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