With a missing link in the Linux chain continuing to be its widespread presence on desktops around the world, Red Hat offered another solution to solve that problem Wednesday with the release of its Global Desktop for Linux.

Red Hat said that Global Desktop for Linux, intended primarily for developing nations, was developed largely as a result of its work in helping to create the user interface and operating system for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project.

That project, headed by famed MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, initially set a goal of developing a networked, "revolutionary" laptop for $100, which has since been updated to about $175, and then sell it by the millions to India, Pakistan, China, Brazil, and countries.

A key requirement for the OLPC laptop was an operating system that was open source and low on power requirements. Red Hat began working with OLPC in 2006.

One-Size-Fits-All Model Exhausted

In addition to targeting local governments and small businesses in developing countries, Red Hat's stated intentions with this OLPC commercial spinoff include emphasizing network-centric over desktop-centric computing and providing an adaptable, open-standards desktop.

Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO, said in a statement that the traditional, one-size-fits-all desktop paradigm is simply exhausted. "Commercial customers are still begging for desktop security and manageability for their knowledge workers," he noted. "Consumers are rapidly adopting new online services and applications; and developing nations are looking for affordable information technologies that bypass traditional desktops entirely."

Red Hat's strategy, he explained, is to deliver open-standards technologies that are "specifically appropriate" to each of these needs. The company said that Global Desktop has "an enterprise Relevant Products/Services-class suite of productivity applications" and that it had worked closely with Intel to support future and current desktop platforms, including the Classmate, Affordable, Community, and Low-Cost PC platforms.

Competitive in 'Green' Areas

Developments such as the Global Desktop "could very well change the environment in developing countries" for the Windows OS, noted Laura DiDio, an analyst with technology research firm Yankee Group.

"Linux is very, very competitive in 'green' areas," she said, meaning "pristine environments where there is little or no existing infrastructure." She added that "it is generally hard to get people to switch from Windows to Linux, but when there's nothing there, no installed base to compete against, it's a threat to Microsoft." This is why Microsoft is offering Windows XP in low-cost versions in those regions, she pointed out.

This situation could potentially be "huge" for Linux, she said, and likely will depend on the quality of applications.

Current Analysis analyst Toni Duboise said that "it was still too early to tell" if Linux would be much of a competitor in third-world countries. "Windows still rules most of the applications," she noted, "so eventually developing markets are going to come up against that barrier" if they go another route.

Announced at the Red Hat Summit currently occurring in San Diego, the Global Desktop is part of Red Hat's declared strategy to pay more attention to Linux on the desktop. In March, the Raleigh, North Carolina-based company released Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 5, which is designed to reduce the cost and hassle of administering and securing thousands of machines.