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SuSE makes its bid to move business off Windows

Perhaps sir would like some desktops to go with his enterprise server?

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SuSE Linux today releases its bid for the corporate desktop market, SuSE Linux Desktop, intended as a stablemate for the Enterprise Server SuSE released last autumn. Those not wishing to be unnecessarily confused should note the slight difference in the tagline from SuSE Office Desktop, which the company released earlier this year as a more consumer- and small business- oriented system.

There are of course similarities, not least in the inclusion of tools to ease migration from Windows, but there are a number of salient points to the enterprise version. First, it's much more of a corporate sale, starting at a five licence pack for ?544 or $598, and it won't be sold at retail. It also shares a code base with Enterprise Server, and includes numerous network and workstation management features of the sort that will attract large businesses. These, SuSE stressed a number of times at the launch last Friday, require a skilled admininstrator, as they're currently largely text-based.

Quizzed by The Register on the positioning of the product, VP development Markus Rex conceded that yes, some quite small businesses do need network management and client lockdown facilities, and therefore the new product would have uses for them, but as the easier to use GUI-based tools are planned for future revs of the product, pitching it upscale for now makes sense. SuSE also likely has its hands full dealing with the growing numbers of larger enterprises and government organisations heading for the desktop Linux market, and that's obviously the commercial sweet spot it can most readily deal with right now.

Other points include a longer release cycle, in the region of 18 months, five year maintenance and - something else SuSE stresses heavily - Agfa Monotype fonts. The vital importance of an Agfa licence might not strike evetyone straight off, but if you're trying to switch a company from MS Office to StarOffice or OpenOffice.org then you're likely to get whines from users about how their PowerPoints look different. But as the Agfa ones are basically the same as the Microsoft ones, now they don't.

Rex also pointed to OpenExchange Server, SuSE's enterprise mail product, as important from a migratory point of view. This supports a wide range of standards and clients, including Microsoft ones, and is therefore a key part of the package the company offers to outfits defecting from Windows (e.g. Munich, although technically this is currently a win for Linux, and SuSE still has to bid for the gig).

The "tipping point" for SuSE Linux desktop, says Rex, came after the release of Enterprise Server, when customers started to wonder how much extra they could save by moving their desktops to Linux too. The latest product gives them most of the means to do so, one of the major remaining holes being that MS Office macro support is still less than 100 per cent, and coups like Munich (which if not yet a sales win for SuSE, is definitely a PR one) will help get the message out.

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