The new Novell Linux Desktop began shipping recently. Even though many of you would rather post guards on your server room door rather than migrate from NetWare to another platform, the desktop is a different kettle of fish.

Plenty of people long for the days of DOS workstations. There's even still a few who like their OS/2 desktops. But there are many of you who run Windows on your users' machines and are looking for an alternative. NLD could be that alternative.

GNOME or KDE?
NLD gives you the choice of installing either (or both) of two different GUIs - GNOME or KDE. Most long-time SuSE Linux users are more familiar with KDE, but the GNOME interface (championed by the folks from Novell acquisition Ximian) looks and feels more familiar to a Windows user, especially a non-tech one. Still, you can install all or part of either or both, and even mix and match parts of each. This did lead to some confusion on the part of some journalists and users (see the newsletter here) who thought that Novell was creating a new GUI with elements of both GNOME and KDE. Instead, it's the user who can decide which elements of each to use - that's a real plus.

Features list
The NLD distribution takes about three CD platters - down from the five that SuSE Professional edition takes. Much of the hobbyist-type material is left out - stuff the typical office worker wouldn't, couldn't and (in truth) shouldn't use.

What is included is OpenOffice for office productivity as well as Novell's Evolution for e-mail and collaboration. Novell has also incorporated Ximian's Red Carpet update tool rather than the YAST tool traditionally used by SuSE Linux. That's also a plus, as the Red Carpet tool is much more intuitive (and automated) for the average user.

Is NLD right for everybody? Probably not.

As Ted Haeger, NLD's director of marketing said, "Linux on the desktop has challenges still to overcome. The technology - the platform, the desktop environment, and several of the standard must-have applications - is certainly mature enough but there are yet areas to conquer. The OpenOffice.org office suite is still not clean enough to satisfy a lot of avid Microsoft Office users. And the independent software vendors are not all on board with software (on the personal side think Quicken, iTunes, Audible.com, etc.; on the business side, it's line-of-business applications and vertical applications). Yes, open source alternatives exist, and are growing in maturity, but I am not an idealist who thinks that open source is always the best option. Business usually wants someone to back their mission-critical systems."

This is the tentative first step towards creating the open source business desktop. It's a good step and we'll keep watching to make sure there are more, better steps.