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Linux desktop market still wait-and-see

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Linux

The solid growth of Linux of late serves to dismiss even the most outrageous of anti-Linux campaigns as more of a dud than FUD.

But what of the much-ballyhooed Linux desktop, which has yet to catch on in the enterprise like its server-side sibling? For the answer, one needs to look no further than the business practices presently adopted by the top two commercial Linux vendors -- Red Hat and Novell.

Ideas International vice president and senior analyst Tony Iams described the practices of these vendors with one word: cautious.

"Vendors involved with Linux [like Red Hat and Novell] have been treading cautiously," Iams said. "They are being careful to avoid getting too far ahead of the demand curve, and they are being careful in how they set up their customers for what they can realistically accomplish with Linux desktops."

This behavior has created a state of limbo where each vendor has been hesitant to be the "first on the block" to aggressively push Linux on the desktop, Iams said. The same can be said for hardware vendors like Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and even IBM, he added.

Even in this environment, where hardware and software vendors gingerly test the desktop demand, Iams said Novell has been a bit more aggressive when compared to Red Hat.

Iams pointed to Novell's two main products, SuSE Linux 9 Pro and Linux Desktop, as examples of how Novell has remained forceful in the retail channel.

Iams has observed that Red Hat is carefully watching the market, listening to customer demands and is identifying trends very well. However, like Novell, IBM, HP and others, Red Hat is careful not to push too hard with Red Hat Desktop 9.

The company, he said, has aligned itself very well with the rest of the software industry, and can boast a natural fit with its partners and systems providers.

In light of recent reports that Linux vendor Progeny was forming a consortium of smaller Linux companies to create a new distro based on Debian, Niemi was doubtful that such an endeavor would be a threat to No. 2 Novell, let alone Red Hat.

The Debian Core Consortium is not yet finalized, but could feature contributions from Linspire, Xandros and several other Debian companies in Europe in addition to Progeny.

"Debian is not really a threat to either company anytime soon, as Progeny lacks the marketing and support infrastructure to compete for the enterprise market," Niemi said.

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