"We have made a big investment taking the Linux desktop past everybody. The usability work we've done is not to reinvent Windows, but to reinvent a better desktop," Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, Novell's director of marketing for Linux and open source, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.
"When Microsoft Vista ships it will catch up to us in a number of areas, but we'll enjoy six months where Novell's Linux desktop is in the lead," he said.
The Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED), which will be available beginning this summer, is a "big change for Linux" as it is now suitable for all enterprise users, according to Mancusi-Ungaro.
"Up until now the Linux desktop has primarily been deployed in specialized circumstances--as a fixed-function workstation or as a transactional desktop," he said. "Now, for the first time, we can tell you with confidence that it can be deployed for general office workers."
Important new features in SLED include an animated user interface and integrated desktop search.
Other features thatis touting in the product include the addition of support for Microsoft Excel Macros and Pivot Tables in OpenOffice.org, and full support for all standard network and printing protocols, allowing plug-and-play functionality for cameras, USB (universal serial bus) drives, personal music players and printers.
The animated GUI (Graphical User Interface) takes advantage of the XGL graphics software,. The GUI makes the Linux desktop more usable, for example, by providing visual cues to users when they minimize windows, according to Mancusi-Ungaro.
"When users minimize windows to the panel at the bottom of the screen they will see it move there rather than vanish, so users are more aware of where they have put something," he said.
As for desktop search, although the Beagle tool is already available in Suse Linux Professional 9.3, this is the first time that Novell is offering seven years of support for the product.
Novell carried out hundreds of usability tests and shot almost 1,500 hours of user-interaction video to aid the design of SLED. It said that each feature of the product has been "rigorously tested and refined for usability to ensure the best possible performance in a business environment." The results of the usability tests can be viewed on Novell's Better Desktop Web site.
Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from New York.