Novell CTO Ross Chevalier is traveling the continent giving demonstrations of Novell SUSE Linux 10 Enterprise Desktop.
When Novell decided to deliver its version of the best operating system, it first had to learn what users wanted in an OS. To accomplish that objective, Novell started betterdesktop.org.
“We specifically looked for Windows users who were NOT technically proficient,” Chevalier said.
After seeking out and questioning users in education, medical, government, financial/insurance, commercial construction, and technology industries, the majority of respondents felt they could put it on the desktops of those they could work with.
“We’re not saying replace everything; we’re saying use Linux wherever it fits,” said Chevalier. “Unlike other folks who tell you to rip everything else out, we’re saying use whatever you want, and what you’re comfortable with.”
The first goal of the new OS was to have users up and running within one hour. Installation times for SUSE Linux 10 have varied form 27 minutes from a DVD drive to just under an hour with a CD-ROM drive.
Another goal was better graphics, faster drivers, and to be at least as good at graphics as Mac OS 10 is currently, and Windows Vista when it is shipped, whenever that happens.
Yet another goal was for devices and peripherals to be recognized and work immediately after plugging them in. Searching for drivers, either online or on the accompanying disk, is too much trouble.
“I’ve been a technologist for 25 years and I don’t want that pain,” said Chevalier. “It’s great if you have drivers, but they’re not necessary.”
A demonstration that brought a laugh was the lack of nagware when Chevalier unplugged a USB drive without asking SUSE 10 for permission to do so. Windows always throws a tantrum when users do that, and sometimes refuses permission when a certain application is still open, even if asked nicely.
Part of changing the game is for users to not have to buy platform-specific applications. Pointing to his presentation, Chevalier asked, “Has anyone ever suffered through death by slideware? What application am I using?”
“Powerpoint,” was the response.
“I created this in PowerPoint, but we’re displaying it in OpenOffice. It doesn’t cost anything.”
At freedesktop.org there are 5,000 Canadians making creating very cool software applications, cooperating in a network of partners.
Mac users will recognize similarities in simplicity of the desktop setup. To change a desktop image takes three fewer clicks than in Windows. To start an application, click on the ‘computer’icon.
“We don’t call it “Start”, although there is a skin if that’s what you prefer,” Chevalier said. “We’re not going to force anyone into a box; you should work the way you’re used to.”
Anyone who has become dependent on Office macros can easily use the OpenOffice macros. Office macros can be imported into OpenOffice via drag and drop. Skeptics can download OpenOffice for Windows for free to try it first.
Currently there are only nine known Linux viruses. ClamAV is the free automatically updating anti-virus application. While it works on Linux, it is important that on enterprise networks, Linux servers aren’t sending viruses to Windows machines. So users can still run Trend Micro, Symantec, McAfee security suites if they choose. AV should also be used when running Windows in VMWare on SUSE 10.
With all of the free applications, how will Novell and its partners earn any money?
“Our revenue will come from supporting,” said Chevalier. “It changes the game, but the customer is further ahead.”
Novell expects the channel to profit by using Zenworks Linux asset and patch management to create a service in which the reseller provides remote management to customers.
“This is not a new idea; some of our partners were doing it with Windows services,” Chevalier said.
“Now they’re also doing it with Linux. By using Zenworks, smart channel operators can really add value to their customers and reduce their own costs because they don’t have to do a site visit every time they roll something out.”
The OS and included applications are free, downloadable from http://www.novell.com/linux/. Support is only $60 per seat per year, which for the mathematically challenged is only $5 per month.