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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 GPanswers.com. 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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