Novell wakes up little SuSE desktop

Novell Inc. is launching Novell Linux Desktop 9 (LD9) Monday — even though it’s the first version of the product. According to product manager Richard Linstedt, LD9 is a cut-down version of the company’s existing Linux SuSE Linux Professional.

The OS can make use of older, less-highly specified machines, said Linstedt, and is aimed at enterprise IT managers wanting a cost-effective desktop OS. It also hopes to attract technical workstations, CAD, and graphics intensive workers, plus single task workers such as call center and POS operatives.

“There’s a lot of hype in the Linux desktop market”, said Linstedt. “We have a view on why this desktop is going to be successful. But it’s not a Microsoft-killer — that’s not how we’re pitching it —that’s still a way out yet.”

Linstedt explained that Novell will sell annual subscriptions which provide customers with support, patches and updates. Sold directly from Novell and distributors — OEMs will be announced later — the plan is to refresh the product every 18-24 months.

Referring to LD9, Lindstedt agreed that IT managers often used desktop replacement cycles of three, four or even five years but, he said, “we need to refresh this fast because Linux is evolving fast. We offer a lifecycle guarantee and will support the system for five years.”

It’s a slower refresh cycle than the Professional version, which is refreshed every six months or so and is aimed at technically aware users. However, Linstedt added that while SuSE Linux Professional 9.2 looks the same, LD9 “contains fewer packages and is easier to support”.

Comparing Novell’s twin-track approach to Red Hat Inc.’s similar strategy, Linstedt said: “We offer a polished approach to a packaged product.” Comparing SuSE Professional to Red Hat Fedora, he argued “we get more feedback from normal people”.


According to Linstedt, LD9 offers both Gnome and KDE desktops, plus Novell’s own Ximian, all selectable at install time.

— E-mail is provided by Novell Evolution with a plug-in “for accessing a Microsoft Exchange back-end”.

— LD9 includes a cross-platform, Java-based email client for GroupWise customers available as separate option. It looks like the Windows version of GroupWise, said Linstedt, and gives access to mail and calendaring.

— Browsing is provided by Mozilla Firefox, with instant messaging, and the Novell iFolder client.

— For management, LD9 incorporates AutoYAST for the deployment of new applications, and ZenWorks Linux Management.

LD9 costs US$64 for one year.

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