Home Business IT Open Source But what happened to the desktop?

The Linux Desktop. That's one phrase that hasn't been heard too much around the annual SUSE Linux conference, SUSECON, in Orlando, Florida.

Only one of well over 150 technical sessions is directly related to the desktop, a polished version of which SUSE releases under the name SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED).

This session, Use Cases for SUSE Linux Desktop, was held yesterday by Stefan Behlert, senior project manager, and Jan Weber, product manager (both pictured above).

Additionally, there is one session devoted to LibreOffice, the office suite that is part and parcel of most Linux distributions, and an additional session on openSUSE, the upstream of the enterprise distributions, which could be considered to be revolving around the desktop as well.

But that's a minuscule number indeed, compared to the number of sessions that revolve around the server distribution and various other products that SUSE is becoming known for and which, in large measure, bring home the bacon.

SUSE president Nils Brauckmann said yesterday that when company people made reference to the enterprise server, the desktop was also included. It just so happened, he added, that the desktop was not where the company's "sweet spot" was; in other words, not a big selling point.

Ralf Flaxa, the company's vice-president of engineering, was quick to point out that SUSE has devoted a fair bit of manpower to both major Linux desktop projects, KDE and GNOME.

GNOME was the default for the enterprise desktop, while KDE was the default, or pre-selection, for openSUSE.

Both Weber and Behlert pointed out that the enterprise desktop was not being projected as a "full Windows replacement".

Behlert said this was due to the fact that making such a claim could often result in customers being disappointed.

He pointed out that while there were many scenarios where the enterprise desktop distribution could replace an existing operating system - such as in many human resources departments - there were others, like an accounting department, where this was not possible due to the applications in use.

Weber listed a number of use cases - fixed function users, transactional users, technical workstation users, general purpose desktop users and even power users - and said all of these types could often use SLED to fulfill their needs.

But still, he said, there were cases where, due to the proprietary nature of some codecs or file formats, SUSE could not fill the bill in toto.

Both Weber and Behlert were at pains to point out that the SUSE enterprise desktop would cost less, provide inter-operability, ease of use, desktop security and ease of management far in excess of other operating systems. But still, they said, it would be incorrect to position SLED as a full replacement for Windows.

Asked whether this was due to the licensing agreement which Novell had signed in 2006 with Microsoft, both replied in the negative.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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