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OSDL Picks Up Desktop Linux Charter

OSDL Picks Up Desktop Linux Charter

The Open Source Development Lab (OSDL), which has so far limited itself to high-end carrier-grade and data center Linux server initiatives, is preparing for a desktop jihad the scope of which is difficult to gauge at this point. OSDL's new 10-man desktop task force is supposed to define it and the task force it hasn't even met yet.

OSDL can't be so foolish as to take on Microsoft head-on and the organization seems to suggest that there are areas besides the classic office desktop such as call centers, point-of-sales devices and factories floors where "desktop" Linux can be used already, but the push is unlikely to remain in a ghetto.

OSDL's desktop initiative comes at the behest of its secret end-user advisory council, composed of 20 US-based companies, 15 of them Fortune 500s, that don't want their names known to avoid being labeled Microsoft haters, according to OSDL marketing director Nelson Pratt.

OSDL members like IBM and Red Hat nominated the companies that sit on the council, but of course they are presumably all Microsoft customers.

OSDL is putting together similar European and Japanese councils and is about to mount a big member recruitment drive focused on the user.

In addition, well-placed sources say that Novell, which is not an OSDL member - at least not yet - is also pushing the consortium to start a desktop initiative even though Novell CEO Jack Messman claimed when he announced Novell was buying SUSE that "This deal is not about taking on Microsoft on the desktop."

Novell of course already has the Ximian desktop interests that it bought this summer and SUSE is deeper into desktop Linux than Red Hat, whose CEO Matthew Szulik recently advised consumers to stick with Windows and Office rather than go to an immature Linux.

Novell also has a bunch of old scores to settle with Microsoft.

Anyway, OSDL's board, which includes representatives from IBM, Intel, HP, CA, NEC, Fujitsu and Miracle Linux, instructed OSDL staff at its last board meeting late last month to develop an implementation plan of how the desktop initiative might be structured.

The plan is expected to progress unimpeded to setting up a working group - a short list of who should be in it is reportedly in preparation - and then to the business of listing the so-called desktop requirements. OSDL figures to make a formal announcement of the charter's existence and work-to-date in January at LinuxWorld, according to OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen.

Ironically, the Wall Street Journal's great technology arbiter, its influential columnist Walter Mossberg, has just reviewed StarOffice 7, the Office wannabe closely associated with Linux though it also runs on Windows and Solaris.

Mossberg says the new StarOffice 7 is a bit better than last year's model, but he still wouldn't recommend it except to "light users preparing basic documents who either can't afford Office, or hate Microsoft so much they'll live with some complexity and limitations."

He figures that "The key virtue of StarOffice is that it's cheap," but that the average Joe can buy a copy of Microsoft's $149 Student and Teacher edition of Office no questions asked and although supposedly off-limits to all but students and teachers, it "can legally be installed on up to three PC in a household."

The niceties Mossberg raised aren't stopping the Thai government, for instance, from adopting StarOffice.

Meanwhile, on the Sun front, software czar Jonathan Schwartz in the run-up to the release of the company's SUSE/StarOffice-based Project Mad Hatter, now dubbed the Java Desktop System, said Thursday during a Town Hall meeting that Sun has been in negotiation with any number of accounts and was about to prove that Microsoft could be had on the desktop - particularly outside the US.

Schwartz also said that Sun's desktop ambitions, which have been delayed for a while now, was "about to become profitable."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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