I have said it many times before – I have no blind loyalty to any one operating system. So when I first heard that SuSE was being put face to face against Vista Beta 2, naturally I was interested.

How did each OS do? For most part, as expected. The one thing that really caught my eye had to be the following statement from the reviewer at CRN:

Installing third-party applications is a breeze with Vista. There are a plethora of commercial and noncommercial apps readily available, and for the most part, all can be installed with just a couple of mouse clicks.

But that’s one area where SUSE Linux falls flat on its face. Although installing applications directly available from Novell tends to be straightforward, third-party applications are another story. The problem arises because so many versions of Linux are available and can sport a variety of GUIs. With Linux, there really is no such thing as a “simple install,” at least when compared with the worlds of Windows and Macintosh.

Boom. It’s the same old problem that has prevented Linux from gaining a better share of the corporate marketplace. With the exception of Linspire, Xandros and Ubuntu, installing applications from a 1995-looking package manager is not going to happen in today’s business world. And don’t even get me started on the amazing compiling headaches of Linux tarballs.

OK got it, tarballs are bad. So why not Linspire with their CNR installation system? Simple, they don’t offer security patches with the frequency that Novell does. Why? I have been able to determine the following, although this is certainly not an official statement by any means:

  • They are looking at at stability vs staying up on the cutting edge.
  • I suspect that their current release cycles are somewhat behind that of their Debian base, although I may be mistaken on this.
  • Since most of the Linspire PCs are home based machines, enforcing strict security policy is not really huge concern outside of making sure that the built-in firewall is working up to par.

It is at this point, we have to consider whether or not we even need to concern ourselves with SuSE’s ability to make software installation “easier”. My thinking in the office space is no. If you stop to think, you would see an increase of productivity by preventing people from even attempting to install “stuff” that they don’t even need in the first place. But on the flipside, this can also be done pretty easily from within other OS’ as well.

In the end, there are and will continue to be places where the Windows only software will stomp Linux flat. Until the tired old “everything should be free” routine can be cleansed away from the business side of Linux and other companies begin to follow Linspire’s lead with mixing the closed and open software within their package managers, the invisible roadblocks will remain. Guess it may be time to look at a Mac? Ah, $1200 (give or take) for one unit? Great for the home, but maybe not so much in the business world…