Open-source rivals Novell and Red Hat are each highlighting initiatives to bring Linux-based functionality to the desktop.

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

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 in a Linux environment, part of Novell's recently announced collaboration with Windows creator, 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 to provide a finished thin-client product, which Novell says will offer customers lower costs, increased data security and better manageability.

The thin-client product should increase adoption of Linux, which has been used mostly in server environments, onto desktops, said Chris Ingle, consulting and research director at IDC.

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

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