June 9, 2003

SuSE makes Linux desktop migration easier for corporate users

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -
Today marks the release of SuSE's new Linux Desktop for Enterprises. The theory behind this product is that it provides (in press release-speak), "a user-friendly, flexible, SuSE maintained desktop built
for large IT infrastructures, software development and high performance
computing environments." Sounds great, but what does that mean?

To begin with, it means the underlying code base is identical to SuSE's Linux Enterprise Server 8, which means a company that goes the all-SuSE route can use the same admin, updating, and patching tools and procedures on platforms ranging from laptops to mainframes. Call this "Microsoft-like" if you like, and plenty will, but one of the big advantages Microsoft has marketed to corporate clients is that they only need to use one familiar interface to administer both clients and servers, instead of expecting clients' employees to learn a whole mish-mosh of different GUIs and text commands. Argue that many different tools are needed to do many different jobs all you like; this "one interface to bind them all" pitch will still resonate with corporate decision makers whose background is in business rather than in computing, and SuSE offers a single admin interface that will work across a much wider range of hardware platforms than Microsoft's.

The second big item here is that the SuSE Office Desktop includes several commercial products not provided with their SuSE Linux 8.2 Professional package, most notably Crossover Office and Crossover Plugin, so Linux converts can still use such familiar Windows software as MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, MSIE, Lotus Notes, and many others. With the Plugin utility, Linux users can view Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Shockwave, and other file formats previously closed to them. Again, you can argue easily that this should not be a necessity, but for a pragmatic business person the idea of switching to Linux without giving up familiar Windows software and "bells and whistles" is a powerful lure.

Number three incentive is that in an age of ever-shorter release/update cycles, SuSE claims they'll maintain their new commercial desktop product for five years, not just one or two. You'll pay for updates after the first year, but at least they'll be available. (And you can certainly find free updates for all the included non-commercial packages if you choose to go that route, so payment is essentially optional, not mandatory).

There's a bunch of other stuff mentioned in the press release, so we'll let you read it for yourself at the end of this article.

Not sold in stores

This is an "enterprise" offering that costs $598 for up to five workstations, with quantity discounts for larger purchases. SuSE is on a major corporate and government sales push, and it seems to have been working well, since we get a constant string of press releases from them about this (usually German) city or that government agency or so-and-so company switching from Windows to SuSE Linux.

There is already a consumer-level SuSE Linux Desktop product on the market. NewsForge published a review of it back in February. It was decent overall, but flawed. (One example: the YaST Online Update feature did not work at all, which was a general SuSE 8.1 problem, fixed in 8.2.)

Holger Dyroff, SuSE's General Manager here in the Americas, tells us the new "enterprise" SuSE Linux Desktop has new and much-improved underlying code; that it does not have the problems we noticed with the earlier, consumer version.

There is also a new "consumer" SuSE Linux Desktop version due out soon. We've heard release date estimates that range from "next month" to "sometime this fall." It will probably cost about as much as the earlier try at this product - $129 - but if it's as smooth as SuSE 8.2, and has all the promised features, it's an excellent value at that price, since it will include the Linux equivalents of at least $700 or $800 worth of Windows software, plus the ability to use lots of Windows software if that's what turns you on.

But we're going to save talk of the new SuSE Office Desktop for another article. We've been given download access to a beta version, and will review it shortly. It sounds like it's going to be great, assuming all features work as promised, at least for those of us who are tired of telling Windows-using friends that in return for gaining the legendary reliability, virus/worm/spyware resistance, and low-to-free software costs you get by switching to Linux, you need to give up your ability to use this or that program or view a favorite Web site in its full broadband glory.

I, for one, would dearly love to stop making excuses for Linux user-level shortcomings and to start singing, "Anything Windows can do, Linux can do better," whenever I'm asked to make a comparison between the two.

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SuSE Press Release:

SuSE Linux announces First Linux Desktop for Enterprises

Nuremberg, Germany, June 9, 2003 - SuSE Linux today announced the
availability of the first enterprise-class Linux desktop solution, SuSE
Linux Desktop -- a user-friendly, flexible, SuSE maintained desktop built
for large IT infrastructures, software development and high performance
computing environments.

The final element of SuSE's multi-stage desktop product strategy, SuSE
Linux Desktop also comes with five-year maintenance - a first for Linux
desktops.

"SuSE Linux Desktop is unique in the industry, combining the
cost-efficiency, ease of deployment and innovation of Linux with a
five-year maintenance program," said Richard Seibt, CEO of SuSE Linux. "We
believe this is the product that will bring Linux to enterprise desktops
across the whole world."

SuSE also announced the first hardware certifications for SuSE Linux
Desktop. In June, IBM ThinkPads A31 and T40 and IBM NetVista desktop
computers will be awarded the label "Certified for SuSE Linux Desktop,"
ensuring smooth interaction between hardware and software, even under high
workloads. SuSE Linux Desktop has already achieved Linux Standards Base
(LSB) Certification, verifying adherence to the community and industry
developed standards for Linux distributions and Linux-based applications.

SuSE Linux Desktop and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 - common codebase for
workstations and servers

By deploying SuSE Linux Desktop in combination with SuSE Linux Enterprise
Server 8, Powered by UnitedLinux, businesses worldwide will have the first
complete Linux enterprise platform, certified for the solutions of the
world's leading ISVs and IHVs, with server and client perfectly tuned.
Based on a uniform codebase, the combination of SuSE Linux Desktop and SuSE
Linux Enterprise Server simplifies system administration within complex IT
networks -- reducing administration, training and support costs --
dramatically lowering total cost of ownership.

Enhanced regularly over a period of five years with new features, fixes,
and other improvements, SuSE Linux Desktop and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server
8 offer maximum system availability, long-term planning security and
return-on-investment.

"SuSE Linux Desktop on HP desktops and workstations marks the next stage in
the evolution of the Linux operating system," said Martin Fink, vice
president of Linux, HP. "Users now get the price/performance advantage of
Linux on one flexible and efficient platform to run enterprise-level
applications on their desktops and one vendor - HP - to support them along
the way."

Complete office suite, enhanced fonts and communication tools

SuSE Linux Desktop gives users the choice between deploying Linux or
Windows productivity tools. The product comes bundled with Sun
Microsystems' StarOffice 6.0 and OpenOffice.org 1.0.2, but users can also
install Microsoft Office -- ensuring familiarity, flexibility and
interoperability, while still taking advantage of the stability and
scalability that Linux delivers. The migration of Microsoft Windows
installations to SuSE Linux Desktop is just as efficient and inexpensive as
the extension of existing Windows infrastructures with SuSE Linux Desktop.

Codeweavers CrossOver Office 2.0 enables the seamless utilization of Word,
Excel and PowerPoint from MS Office 97/2000/XP as well as MS Outlook, Visio
2000 and other Microsoft applications. IBM Lotus Notes can also be utilized
on the SuSE Linux Desktop.

Agfa Monotype fonts ensure true format printing and display of Microsoft
documents.

In addition to various mail clients (e.g. KMail, Evolution, Mozilla) and
web browsers, calendar and data exchange functionality with PDAs, SuSE
Linux Desktop also provides optimized interfaces enabling access to
application servers and mainframes - e.g., SAP client, Windows 2000
Terminal client and IBM terminal emulators. Proven security functions --
the KDE desktop security system, Kiosk, as well as e-mail and file
encryption - provide protected availability of all data on local hosts,
laptops, and in corporate networks.

SuSE Linux Desktop provides all the necessary tools for the administration
of large systems - easy, efficient installation with AutoYaST, SuSE YOU
(YaST Online Update) and KDE "Desktop Sharing" for remote control of the
screens of several network hosts across hardware borders. In addition, SuSE
Linux Desktop is prepared for implementation in a Smart Client framework as
well as for utilization in combination with Ximian Red Carpet Enterprise.

Unprecedented flexibility through open standards - significantly reduced
costs

With a focus on easy central administration, SuSE Linux Desktop is
optimized for deployment in large-scale enterprises, public administrations
and companies with multiple locations. Corporate customers benefit from
SuSE Linux Desktop's unprecedented flexibility -- open standards and
interfaces allow seamless integration in heterogeneous networks,
customization to company-specific needs and unlimited scalability according
to the company's growth.

Stuttgarter Lebensversicherung, a life insurance company of the Stuttgarter
Versicherungen Group, announced its decision to replace its OS/2-based
client infrastructure with Linux. SuSE Linux will operate in a SmartClient
architecture on about 800 PCs at more than 20 locations in
Germany. The PCs will be administered from the company headquarters in
Stuttgart, which will save costs and reduce the administration workload..

Currently, the new system is being utilized by about 60 pilot users. From
September to November 2003, another 500 workstations at the
headquarters will be migrated. The workstations at the branch offices will
follow in 2004.

"We explicitly decided against Windows and for SuSE Linux on our PC
workstations, because we believe that this gives us a clear advantage. By
choosing SuSE Linux, we can exploit an enormous cost savings and benefit
from a substantial efficiency gain," explains Manfred Schmidt, CEO of
Stuttgarter Lebensversicherung. "The pilot project was extremely
successful. We are confident that the full launch will prove successful --
meeting our economic expectations."

All-in-one solution - software and maintenance-guarantee

Customers buying SuSE Linux Desktop receive free maintenance for 12 months
as part of the SuSE Linux Maintenance Program -- covering all updates and
enabling users to take advantage of further development of SuSE Linux
business products. Participants in the SuSE Linux Maintenance Program can
install and utilize enhancements and extensions immediately by way of the
SuSE Maintenance Web. The product price of $598 includes a SuSE Linux
Desktop installation kit and a 12-month SuSE Maintenance Program for up to
five workstations.

Additional advanced SuSE Linux support services ensure that enterprises get
assistance from SuSE experts whenever required ? at fixed rates, with
guaranteed turnaround times, and, if necessary, around the clock.

Further information can be found at http://www.suse.com/e-desktop/

About SuSE

SuSE Linux is the international technology leader and solutions provider in
Open Source operating system software. SuSE's unique expertise in Linux and
its largest development team worldwide dedicated to Open Source software
has contributed to the recognition of SuSE as the most complete Linux
solution available today. SuSE Linux is a privately held company focused
entirely on supporting the Linux community and Open Source development.

SuSE is a registered trademark of SuSE Linux AG. Linux is a registered
trademark of Linus Torvalds. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the
property of their respective owners.

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