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SuSE plans 2003 Linux desktop push

The software maker plans to bring the open-source operating system to desktop computers, in an attack on Microsoft bolder than similar initiatives from Red Hat and Sun.

LAS VEGAS--SuSE plans to announce in January an effort to bring the open-source Linux operating system to desktop computers, an attack on Microsoft that will be bolder than similar initiatives from Red Hat and Sun Microsystems.

For its desktop Linux product, SuSE will enlist the aid of CodeWeavers, whose CrossOver Office software lets Microsoft Windows programs run on Intel-based Linux computers, said Holger Dyroff, general manager of the SuSE American division, during an interview at the Comdex Fall 2002 trade show on Monday.

SuSE plans to announce the product at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo at the end of January, Dyroff said.

The $129 product also will include Sun's StarOffice package, a competitor to Microsoft Office, Dyroff said.

Linux's commercial success to date has largely been on the high-powered networked machines known as servers, on which Linux's parent, the Unix operating system, is a comfortable fit. Desktop computers have remained the stronghold of Microsoft, despite ill-fated Linux efforts by companies such as Eazel and Corel.

But Linux advocates are starting to get a little bit feisty again, spurred by customer disgruntlement with Microsoft's license fees, coupled with gradual improvements to Linux and an argument that, through the open-source OS, corporations will be able to save money in tough economic times. Red Hat and Sun Microsystems, though, are currently aiming at a niche set of customers: those running a limited set of programs, such as programs designed to help people staffing a call center for placing catalog orders.

SuSE's effort, though, is much broader, Dyroff said.

"We see as a target anybody who is using a desktop computer," Dyroff said, though "people who use Microsoft Office for more than a third of the day won't be a target market."

Microsoft argues that its products are worth their price tag. "We believe Windows XP delivers more value with enhanced security, reliability and applications compatibility," said Jim Cullinan, lead product manager for Windows XP, in a statement.

Microsoft is confident enough of its products' value that it's funding customers to conduct studies to see if using Microsoft desktop software pays off in terms of employee productivity and lower information technology costs, Cullinan said.

SuSE has convinced some that Linux is worth it, though. Debeka Insurance in Germany is using SuSE Linux on the desktop, and a financial company Dyroff declined to name is beginning a 400- to 500-employee test program, Dyroff said.

SuSE also will sell another version, SuSE Linux Enterprise Client, that includes management, administration and security features specifically geared to large companies with hundreds of employees, Dyroff said.