Jack Messman, chief executive officer of Novell, told delegates that this year Linux would become viable for business users, both on the server and desktop.
"This is going to be the year Linux goes mainstream on the enterprise server, and soon thereafter, the business users - not just the technical users - will begin the transition to Linux-based desktops," he said in his keynote speech.
Novell, which completed its purchase of SuSE Linux earlier this month, unveiled a number of Linux-related products and announced it was joining the open source Eclipse consortium.
Open Source Development Labs, the non-profit group set up to push adoption of Linux, announced the creation of a Desktop Linux Working Group to explore and develop the use of the operating system on business desktops.
The group said the project would begin by identifying a broad set of Linux desktop uses and templates, which will then be used to create specifications and reference implementations.
Computer Associates was bullish about Linux for the enterprise. Sam Greenblatt, senior vice president and chief architect of CA's Linux Technology Group, suggested that Linux was now in its evolution where the IBM PC was in 1984.
IBM said it would be pushing its enterprise software running on Linux as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows NT operating system.
Microsoft is discontinuing support and security patches for Windows NT at the end of this year, which means that nearly two million customers will have to develop a migration strategy.
IBM revealed details of a programme that offers business partners free migration classes and some discounts on software and services for users moving to IBM software running on Linux.
IBM's classes will be offered worldwide and will cover migration to IBM hardware and software for database management, collaboration, security, systems and network management, web and application serving, and file and print serving.
Despite Linux distributors such as Novell, Hewlett-Packard and Red Hat offering indemnification to protect users from legal challenges relating to Linux, IBM said it would continue to remain on the sidelines.
IBM said SCO's £1.6bn intellectual property lawsuit over the use of Unix code in Linux has no basis and therefore indemnification was not needed.