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DistributionWatch Review: SuSE Linux 7.0 Personal/Professional - page 4

Geeko the Gecko? Urgh!

  • September 29, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

Linux, Wiegand stated, "has the stigma of not being as easy to handle as Microsoft." Because of this presumption, many users have been staying away from the platform. Lately, ease of use has been integrated into Linux with its inherent stability, and it has become an attractive platform for current Windows and Mac users who may or may not have ever seen Linux.

It is exactly this group of people that Wiegand and the rest of SuSE covets the most. Windows users represent a big customer target for SuSE and the decision to release SuSE 7.0 in two editions reflects that ambition.

The Professional edition, Wiegand explained, is for all of the experienced Linux users. Those who know what they're doing, know what they want, and know how to play around with the multitude of toys the Professional edition gives them.

The Personal edition, on the other hand, is aimed straight at the average user who knows their way around a PC, but not necessarily Linux. SuSE Personal is designed to make the transition easier for future Windows expatriates to make, hence the strong marketing of StarOffice, GIMP, and Netscape--all applications with clear Windows counterparts.

Wiegand emphasized that the division of the two products falls along these customer lines, not platform-specific labels such as "desktop" and "server."

"It's not so much as what you are going to use Linux for," Wiegand said, "but who's going to use Linux."

Wiegand, a former IT executive from Deutchebank, learned a lot about customer service at that financial organization. He carries his beliefs into his current job as head of the American division of SuSE. Wiegand wants SuSE Linux to be the tool users' implement on their way to their final goal, not the final goal itself. "At the end of the day, users are interested in just getting the problem solved," Wiegand said, regardless of the platform. Wiegand and the Deutschebank managers that came on board with him to SuSE learned that every day from Deutchebank's customer interactions and transactions.

Because of its growing ease of use, Wiegand sees Linux--and specifically SuSE Linux--moving increasingly into the desktop market. Once Linux establishes a foothold in the desktop arena, Wiegand believes that the enterprise market, a traditionally more conservative group fixated on mission critical apps, will eventually follow.

To further address the needs of the enterprise market, SuSE is pushing the technology surrounding high availability, or clustering, into the Open Source realm. Wiegand, who has been involved with HA for quite some time, sees the open source philosophy as succeeding on the kernel, then the desktop. It is now time, he believes, to start moving middleware into open source, which includes HA solutions.

Wiegand is not alone in this desire, and has managed to pull off a partnership with SGI to implement their HA work formerly done with the IRIS FailSafe software exclusively on Linux, effectively dropping their IRIS work. SuSE partnerships don't stop there. They are also teaming up with Polyserve to use the Understudy clustering product and are supporting the development of the global file system as well. Wiegand sees these partnerships not as a way to promote SuSE but rather to provide better service to the customer.

"Share the technology and the best will get the business," Wiegand said.

This is a decidedly German outlook on customer relations and an outlook that explains why Linux has done so well in Germany and the rest of Europe.

"Germany," Wiegand explained,"is a technology-oriented market. Users will always find good technology if it?s there."

This seems to be the case with SuSE Linux's success in Germany. When the 7.0 software was released in late August, they sold 84,000 units directly to customers on the very first day, which sold out the product. Over the course of the next month, they sold another 40,000 units. SuSE's success is also blazingly clear according to an independent survey of software sold in Germany that included games and utilities as well as operating systems and productivity apps. In that survey, Wiegand said, SuSE Linux Professional was ranked number one and SuSE Linux Personal was number three (Norton AntiVirus for Windows was number two).

Of course, marketing in the U.S. is completely the other way around. In the United States, Wiegand said, "we have to bring the technology to the market.

"The challenge here is to make a good market appearance with the limited resources we have," he continued.

While SuSE's U.S. numbers don't reflect near the strength they have in Germany and the rest of Europe, they aren't too bad and are definitely growing. SuSE 6.4 sold around 20-25,000 units in the U.S. when it was out. SuSE 7.0 sold 38,000 on the first day of its release in the United States and a week later, it, too, sold out for a brief time.

Wiegand firmly believes that the strength of Linux's offerings will keep boosting its market share. One of those strengths is the choice of desktop, which Wiegand sees as a chance to help Linux, not hurt it.

Because the operating system and the desktop do not depend on each other, the desktop is very much dependent on the user's taste. This means that the ongoing competition between the desktop platforms, specifically Gnome and KDE, is somewhat unnecessary, in Wiegand's view.

"Instead of competition, these two parties should work together to develop standards that independent software developers can use to create better applications for both desktops," Wiegand said.

"Linux is about having a choice," Wiegand summarized, "It is not about having a monopoly."

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