Red Hat will exploit its back-end security and management services to give its first major corporate desktop, Red Hat Desktop, a promising liftoff to the marketplace.
The Linux software leader launched its long-awaited corporate desktop bundled with Red Hat Network Proxy Server or Satellite Server to give the operating-system client differentiated security and management features from other Linux desktops and the Microsoft Windows/Office combination, Red Hat executives said.
Those servers enable multiple clients to be deployed simultaneously and offer simplified security and system management. The bundle is expected to be available within two weeks and will cost between US$2500 for 10 desktops and US$3500 for 50 desktops. The prices also include server software and enterprise subscription, Red Hat said.
The first desktop is based on updated Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 code due within weeks, Red Hat executives said.
Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik announced that German insurance company LVM has begun pilot testing more than 8000 Red Hat Desktop seats.
At the launch, Red Hat also announced partnerships with top ISVs, including VMware, Citrix Systems, Adobe, Macromedia and Real Networks to enhance the productivity and interoperability of the Red Hat Desktop in the future. The next Red Hat Desktop is due along with other Red Hat Enterprise 4.0 offerings in early 2005.
The Red Hat Desktop will offer Agfa monotype fonts including Albandy, Cumberland and Thorndale; the Adobe Acrobat Reader and Plugin 5.08; Macromedia Flash Plugin 6.0.8, Citrix ICA Client 7.00 and RealPlayer 8.0.
The desktop release follows a wide-ranging pact Red Hat and Wind River Systems announced last March to address thin-client computing and the device marketplace. The new Red Hat desktop allows for uniform development of clients for handhelds, call centres and embedded devices, the company said.
Red Hat's corporate Linux desktop follows other offerings shipped by Sun Microsystems and Novell SUSE Linux over the past year. While the first Red Hat Desktop uses much of the existing Red Hat Workstation client code, its integration with Red Hat Network services and SELinux (Security Enhanced Linux) gives it a key differentiator from other Linux competitors and Microsoft, Red Hat executives said.
Solution providers have mixed views about the viability of Linux on the desktop, laptop and device world given the massive installed base of Microsoft Windows and Office users.
Still, some say Linux's strength on the server market and increasing desktop adoption overseas makes it a more viable competitor on the client side than Microsoft has faced in two decades.
One Sun partner said Sun's Enterprise Java Desktop has grabbed the early lead, adding that he sees little demand for desktop offerings from Novell SUSE or Red Hat. 'I see significantly less demand for either of those client-side Linux flavours,' said Marc Maselli, CEO of Back Bay Technologies, a Sun partner that recently built a service offering on a Linux desktop as an alternative to Windows and Office. 'While Sun's JDS product is not anything new or different, they have generated interest and demand by simply packaging everything together and then supporting all of the tools and products. Red Hat and Novell aren't there yet.'
Red Hat's consulting services group will handle much of the desktop services work, but the company is working with a select group of systems integrators and will build up the list of integrators over the next six months.