A year ago, netbooks were viewed as a good chance for Linux to finally break into the desktop computing mainstream.

Then Microsoft belatedly reacted by making Windows XP available at a low cost to netbook makers. Today, Windows XP-based netbooks comprise 90 percent of North American netbook sales.

That has shifted interest among Linux desktop proponents toward netbooks based on the alternative ARM processor. Popular with smartphones, ARM chips are cheaper and use less power than Intel's Atom processor for netbooks.

Also, Microsoft has shown no interest yet in porting Windows over to the ARM platform. Canonical is now porting its popular Ubuntu Linux distribution over to ARM, while Xandros, whose Linux distribution was used in the original Asus Eee netbook, has already done so.

But Novell said no, for now. Markus Rex, acting senior vice president and general manager for open platform solutions at Novell, said "There certainly is a lot of hype around ARM-based netbooks, [but] at the moment, we don't do anything on ARM-based devices."

"Linux runs just fine on ARM," Rex said. "But we decided to focus on a couple of opportunities that are in the pipeline now."

Novell's SuSE Linux appears to be one of the more popular versions of the open-source operating system for netbooks.

SuSE comes pre-installed on four netbooks: Lenovo's IdeaPad S10e, the MSI Wind from MSI, First International Computer's Intel Atom-powered CW0A1 and Hewlett-Packard's Mini 2140 business netbook.

Novell is currently readying the official launch of the next version of SuSE Linux 11.