Open-source rivals Novell and Red Hat are each highlighting initiatives to bring Linux-based functionality to the desktop.
Novell, at its BrainShare 2007 convention this week in Salt Lake City, detailed improvements to its Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10 product, introduced in July 2006, while Red Hat provided more details about the desktop capability of its new Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 operating system.
Jeffrey Jaffe, Novell's chief technology officer, said a Service Pack upgrade to SLED 10 is now available. Service Packs usually just include bug fixes, Jaffe said, but Novell's adds desktop virtualisation and the ability to run Windows in a Linux environment, part of Novell's recently announced collaboration with Windows creator Microsoft.
"We're really taking [virtualisation] to the next level...bringing Suse Enterprise Linux from the desktop to the datacentre," he said.
Novell introduced a Suse Linux Enterprise Thin Client offering on Monday in Salt Lake City, combining SLED with an image-creation tool kit to provide a finished thin-client product, which Novell says will offer customers lower costs, increased data security and better manageability.
The thin-client product should increase adoption of Linux, which has been used mostly in server environments, onto desktops, said Chris Ingle, consulting and research director at IDC.
"One of the main barriers to using Linux [thin-client] has been the availability of skills and a supported product. Novell's announcement of support should further drive Linux in this fast-growing market," Ingle said in a prepared statement. He was not available for an interview.
Red Hat, meanwhile, provided details about its desktop strategy in a blog posting by Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president of engineering. RHEL 5 was officially unveiled on 14 March.
"With Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, we're introducing the next generation of our Enterprise Desktop. This solution is primarily targeted at knowledge workers in enterprises of all sizes," Cormier wrote.
The next generation product features a new user interface, productivity tools and management capabilities, he said, and promised news in the coming months on an entry-level desktop solution.
"Our goal is not to merely make copies of desktop solutions already available from other providers, but to work with the needs of customers and markets to create something even more usable and productive for today's requirements," Cormier wrote in a blog posting on Wednesday.
Novell's BrainShare event was its first since a partnership with Microsoft was announced in November 2006. Sessions during the five-day conference focused on technical issues regarding the interoperability of Linux and Windows systems. Specifically, the technical focus is on virtualisation, web services for managing physical and virtual servers, directory and identity interoperability, and document format compatibility.