Open-source rivals Novell and Red Hat are each showing off improvements to their respective Linux desktops.

Novell, at its BrainShare 2007 convention this week in Salt Lake City, detailed updates to its SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10 product, introduced in July 2006, while Red Hat provided more information about the desktop capability of its new Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.

Jeffrey Jaffe, Novell's chief technology officer, said a Service Pack upgrade to SLED 10 is now available. Service Packs usually just include bug fixes, Jaffe said, but Novell's adds desktop virtualisation and the ability to run Windows on a Linux system, part of Novell's recently announced collaboration with Microsoft.

"We're really taking [virtualisation] to the next level. ... bringing SuSE Enterprise Linux from the desktop to the data centre," he said.

Novell introduced a SuSE Linux Enterprise Thin Client offering, combining SLED with an image-creation tool kit, which together Novell said will offer customers lower costs, increased data security and better manageability.

The thin client should increase adoption of Linux, which has been used mostly on servers, onto desktops, said Chris Ingle, consulting and research director at IDC.

"One of the main barriers to using Linux [thin-client] has been the availability of skills and a supported product. Novell's announcement of support should further drive Linux in this fast-growing market," Ingle said in a statement.

Red Hat, meanwhile, provided details about its desktop strategy in a blog posting by Paul Cormier, its executive vice president of engineering. RHEL 5 was officially unveiled 14 March.

"With Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, we're introducing the next generation of our Enterprise Desktop. This solution is primarily targeted at knowledge workers in enterprises of all sizes," Cormier wrote.

The product features a new user interface, productivity tools and management capabilities, he said, and promised news in the coming months on an entry-level Linux desktop.

"Our goal is not to merely make copies of desktop solutions already available from other providers, but to work with the needs of customers and markets to create something even more usable and productive for today's requirements," Cormier wrote.

Novell's BrainShare event was its first since its partnership with Microsoft was announced in November. Sessions during the five-day conference focused on the technical interoperability of Linux and Windows. Specifically, the technical focus was on virtualisation, web services for managing physical and virtual servers, directory and identity interoperability, and document format compatibility.