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Red Hat shows its Global Desktop Cards


Red Hat Inc. on May 9 announced the availability of a new client product, Red Hat Global Desktop, at its annual Red Hat Summit tradeshow in San Diego. This desktop aims to deliver a modern user experience with an enterprise-class suite of productivity applications.

Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens stated, “Users, requirements and technologies have changed so dramatically over the past few years that the traditional one-size-fits-all desktop paradigm is simply exhausted.”

“Commercial customers are still begging for desktop security and manageability for their knowledge workers; consumers are rapidly adopting new online services and applications; and developing nations are looking for affordable information technologies that bypass traditional desktops entirely. Our strategy is to deliver technologies that are specifically appropriate to these varied constituents,” Stevens continued.

Expanding on the theme, Stevens said during his opening keynote address “To us, the traditional desktop metaphor is dead, it’s a dinosaur. We don’t believe that recreating the Windows paradigm does anything to increase the productivity paradigm of any user. The new model has to be about the user, centered on activities and not just based on documents and applications.”

A Linux desktop “for the masses”

This move is designed, in part, to compete with Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 Desktop, which has achieved some success in business desktop markets, and with Ubuntu 7.04, which will soon appear on some of Dell’s consumer desktop lines. Red Hat has historically focused on the server market rather than the desktop. As the Linux desktop grows in popularity, Red Hat is now revealing its plans for a Linux desktop “for the masses.”

Red Hat collaborated closely with Intel to enable the design, support, and distribution of Global Desktop to be as close as possible to the customer. In addition, Red Hat claims that the two companies are taking advantage of Global Desktop’s high performance and minimal hardware requirements to support a wide range of Intel’s current and future desktop platforms, including the Classmate, Affordable, Community, and Low-Cost PC lines.

“To address the demand for Linux on desktop systems by our customers in emerging markets, Intel and Red Hat worked together to deliver a pre-certified, cost-effective solution for Intel’s reseller channel to extend their business value,” said Steve Dallman, general manager of Intel worldwide reseller channel organization. “Running Red Hat Global Desktop on Intel processor-powered PCs provides full access to applications and rich experiences to users across local markets, education, small businesses, and government agencies.”

The Global Desktop is not just a consumer version of the recently released RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) Desktop 5. The RHEL Desktop 5 is meant for enterprises that need high levels of desktop security and comprehensive network-based management tools.

The Global Desktop will be based on the lessons Red Hart has learned from its involvement in the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) project. What this means for the Global Desktop is that it will make great use of ubiquitous online services and virtualization. For example, It will include technologies like Mugshot, Red Hat’s open source networking service, which was announced last year.

Specific details, such as what the hardware requirements will be and what version of Linux will be used, were not available at publication time.

In his part of the opening keynote, Matthew Szulik, Red Hat’s CEO, president, chairman, noted that the open source community had long pursued the ideal of a competitive Linux desktop. The client metaphor was about to change, so trying to become an appendage of the current incumbent was “simply not an option. Many of those companies that have tried to do this are not around anymore. We would have bought Corel [Corel’s Linux became the foundation for Xandros Linux] five years ago if that was the paradigm our customers wanted,” Szulik continued.

“The enterprises that we are talking to do not see the desktop of the future as being the same as the one that exists today,” he said.

For his part, Stevens concluded, “The incumbents have too much to lose if things change, but you have too much to lose if they don’t. The performance and cost of Linux on x86 is outperforming anything else in the market, and that gap is only going to widen.”

— Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, with additional reporting by Peter Galli. First published in DesktopLinux.

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