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Novell to offer users a Windows experience on a Linux desktop

Cliff Saran
Novell is expected to announce its strategy to support Linux in the enterprise at its annual user conference, which starts on 21 March.

Steve Gaines, technical director at Novell, said last year's acquisitions of SuSE Linux and the Ximian desktop technology would drive the company's Linux strategy. "We want to make Linux a compelling platform," he said.

One focus is supporting the Linux server. Novell has 20 years' experience in offering technical support to its Netware users globally. Gaines said the company is offering iFolder (its remote file access software), iPrint remote printing technology and collaboration and directory services on the Linux platform.

Enterprise-ready desktop Li-nux is being offered through Ximian, Gaines said. "Today, the Linux desktop is for techies. But most users just want to do their job," he said.

Ximian is Novell's attempt to make Linux easy to use and more like Windows. Based on the Gnome open source user interface, Ximian aims to provide a Windows-like GUI, featuring icons such as the ubiquitous "My Computer", familiar to Windows users. The office productivity package is derived from the open source Openoffice software.

Gaines said Novell's plan was to allow users to exchange information easily with Microsoft Office and Exchange.

Evolution, the Ximian e-mail client, is able to connect to the Microsoft Exchange server, he said. Unlike simpler e-mail client software products that only provide access to e-mail, Evolution also supports the Outlook calendar and contact address book.

He said the Ximian Openoffice suite allows users to exchange documents with MS Office. For instance, Powerpoint slides can be run and edited on the Ximian system. "The only missing functionality is Excel's pivot tables," Gaines said. "But this will be addressed in the next release."

Gaines admitted that Microsoft Office macros could cause users some problems if they access Windows-specific features, but he said, "Generic macros should work."

For users who require access to Windows applications, Novell is offering a tool called Crossover Office. Based on Wine, an open source Windows emulator, Cross-over Office lets users run Windows software such as Internet Explorer, Excel and Powerpoint natively on Linux.

This is not only limited to Microsoft software. Gaines said, "We are talking to a number of software companies about repurposing their Windows software on Linux."

Gaines said Windows applications could also be accessed via Citrix Metaframe. A Citrix client bundled in Ximian presents a GUI for Windows applications hosted on a Metaframe server.

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