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Red Hat Maps Desktop Linux Strategy

Red Hat Chairman and CEO Matthew Szulik is slated to announce the company's new desktop client strategy at a press event in London today.

The Red Hat Desktop offering is a strategic attempt by the number one Linux distributor to extend the reach of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product line on the server side to the client desktop. It is also aimed at eating into Microsoft's dominance on the desktop, as the company works on Longhorn, its next-generation version of Windows.

"With some of the changes that are going to be in place in Microsoft's Longhorn and some of the pretty significant paradigm shifts that customers will have to go through with that as well as the fairly significant installed based of Win95/98/2000 in the market today, customers are really starting to question what their long term strategy is going to be and are starting to look for alternatives," Red Hat program director Mike Ferris told internetnews.com.

The Red Hat Desktop offering is heavily focused on the cornerstones of any modern enterprise deployment, security and manageability. The new offering will integrate with the Red Hat Network that will enable enterprises to deploy and manage multiple clients simultaneously.

"We've also as an industry certainly noticed how customers' interactions with their data and their systems have changed on the desktop over the years," Ferris said. "What users are doing on their desktops can be controlled more tightly and managed more centrally. It's not just about the technology. It's also about how people interact with the information that they are dealing with on a daily basis."

Red Hat is launching the desktop initiative in a market where an estimated 96 percent of the desktops run with Windows desktops, or anything but Linux.

"Certainly we acknowledge the need for customers to run applications that are not native to Red Hat Desktop," Ferris said. To that end, The Red Hat Desktop offering will include the Citrix ICA Client as well as Vmware. With Vmware, users will be able to run a Windows operating systems within the Vmware environment and run Windows applications that way within the Red Hat Desktop.

Red Hat has had a long-standing relationship with the GNOME desktop Linux environment, which will continue with Red Hat's Desktop offering. The system will also include Mozilla for Web browsing, OpenOffice for office productivity and GAIM for instant messaging. Ximian Evolution, which is part of Linux rival Novell , will be the e-mail application.

Ferris also said Red Hat's Desktop strategy will mirror its enterprise strategy in terms of future enhancements, such as the integration of SELinux, which is in the final test stages of FedoraCore2 and expected to be part of RHEL4 in the beginning of 2005.

Red Hat Desktop's release cycle will also mirror the predictable patterns of RHEL aiming for 12 to 18 month release cycles.

Pricing for the new Red Hat offering begins at around $2500 for ten entitlements.

Red Hat's main enterprise Linux competitor Novel/SUSE Linux also has its eye on market share in the Linux Desktop space. Novell Ximian Co-founder Nat Friedman recently told an audience in Toronto that Linux Desktop is ready for the enterprise.

HP signed an agreement with Novell back in March to extend HP support for the Novell SUSE Linux platform, though at the time Linux Desktop was not explicitly stated.