SuSE today launched its Windows-destroyer - a version of the open-source operating system Linux written specifically for desktops.

The new "SuSE Linux Desktop" software is aimed at large company roll-outs and comes on the back of the news that Munich City Council is going to move its 14,000 PCs from Windows to Linux - a contract SuSE looks set to win.

SuSE already has a Linux desktop version for consumers and small businesses but this release has been designed to make a widespread transition from Windows to Linux as smooth as possible, and includes various advanced administrative functions that big businesses will want. It ties in with SuSE's Enterprise Server.

The OS has been redesigned to look and work more like Windows and is more consumer-friendly than previous versions. Key in this is the inclusion of Agfa fonts so that documents look the same as they do on Windows. Companies are also enticed by a longer release cycle of 18 months (big companies like stability, not change) and a five-year maintenance contract.

The software's success will be keenly watched as Linux appears to building with some momentum. Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer listed the open-source OS as one of its main threats in the future. With large backing, a good foundation of support and offering an escape from Microsoft's monopolistic licensing policies, Linux has become extremely viable for big companies.

At the weekend, this view was strongly reiterated by investment bank Merrill Lynch, which said rolling out Linux in place of Windows could save it millions of dollars. Apparently counter to recent Microsoft arguments that while Linux was cheaper to buy, it worked out more expensive to run over time, Merrill Lynch's VP of technology claimed running Linux apps from servers rather than installing copies on every PCs would reduce the total cost of ownership.

Other companies have publicly claimed the same, although the analyst community seems more enamoured of Microsoft. IDC released a report last year that said most applications would work out cheaper over five years if Microsoft software was used. And this month, Gartner advised companies not to switch to Linux until legal arguments over an alleged patent infringement were completed.