Red Hat Desktop writes about Red Hat’s launch of a desktop Linux product aimed at governments, academic institutions and enterprises, especially in Europe and Asia.

Red Hat initially won’t tackle the entire desktop software market, aiming instead for corporations whose employees need only basic computing features such as word processing and Web access. As with its existing server products, Red Hat will sell the desktop version as an annual subscription that includes support and software updates through the Red Hat Network. But it won’t sell them individually, instead offering 50-computer subscriptions for $3,500 annually–about $70 per PC per year.

Price comparisons are awkward, given Red Hat’s subscription model, but a copy of Microsoft Windows XP Professional retails for $299. Red Hat’s top Linux competitor, Novell, sells one desktop product for $90, and a five-pack of a more business-oriented edition for $598. Perhaps closest to Red Hat’s approach is that of Sun Microsystems, whose SuSE Linux-based Java Desktop System costs $100 per employee per year (though discounted to $50 through June 2).

“I would say that in 5 to 7 years, the strength of revenue with this relationship with the customer will be on the scale of the server business,” Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said–but he cautioned that he believes that world also will arrive when applications run on a tightly coupled combination of desktops and servers.

Szulik said the next desktop operating system transition at Microsoft will be an opportunity to convince customers to make the change to Linux. “A lot of customers are faced with heartburn (from) thinking of that transition from one Microsoft environment to Longhorn, whenever it does make its debut,” Szulik said.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.