Novell CEO: Linux for the consumer desktop will take years

Enterprise desktop the key market for open source

Novell's Suse Linux at the desktop is unlikely to be popular with consumers in the next three to five years, according to Novell President and CEO Ronald Hovsepian.

The consumer market is taking longer to develop, he said Wednesday. "The market for the desktop for the next three to five years is mainly enterprise-related," he said.

Novell is in the meantime focusing on technology enthusiasts and offering them free downloads of the openSuse distribution. "It is a community development strategy, so we get a lot of testing and inputs from the 2 million users of openSuse, which is feedback for our development," Hovsepian said.

The company is, however, seeing strong demand for its Linux desktops from enterprise users, according to Hovsepian. Automobile maker PSA Peugeot Citroen, for example, signed a multiyear contract last year for the deployment of up to 20,000 Linux desktops.

Hovsepian does not expect corporate customers in Western Europe and the US to migrate all of their desktops to Linux, but only a part of them. PSA Peugeot Citroen had about 70,000 desktops, but migrated only 20,000 to Suse Linux. In India and the Asia-Pacific, where corporate customers are more open to using Linux on the desktop, the markets will grow more quickly, he added.

Even in India, Suse desktops are being picked up primarily by enterprises rather than consumers, said Sandeep Menon, Novell's country head for India.

Hovsepian was in India to inaugurate the company's new engineering facility in Bangalore, its largest outside the US. The new facility has the capacity to accommodate 700 staff. Novell already has 600 employees in India, with 500 in Bangalore. The company also announced an investment of US$100 million in the country over the next three years.

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