South Africa has announced the launch of an OEM programme for its SUSE Linux desktop operating system, which will see increased freedom of choice being afforded to PC buyers and a likely drop in local PC price.
"We see ourselves as leading the trend in the desktop Linux space with this initiative, since we are the first region in Novell's operation worldwide to drive desktop Linux adoption through an OEM channel," says Stafford Masie, MD of Novell SA. "We believe that consumers can derive huge benefits from the availability of Linux in the mass market and this initiative will ensure that for the first time the Linux platform is easily within the reach of the public."
Stafford Masie, MD of Novell SA
Leading the initiative is Garry Hodgeson, newly-appointed OEM manager at Novell and someone who has become synonymous with the OEM market in South Africa, having spent six years (between 1994 and 2000) in charge of Microsoft's local OEM division, during which time OEM revenues increased by a factor of 159.
Hodgeson says that Novell has already signed OEM agreements with the leading local computer brands and using this channel will be in a position to put the power and flexibility of Linux and Open Source Software in the hands of the person in the street.
"The OEM programme is not about targeting a switch from proprietary software to Open Source, but rather to provide a more cost-effective alternative, and an extremely viable one at that. The use of the Linux operating system and Open Source applications can dramatically reduce the cost of buying a new PC and provide savings that consumers and SMEs desperately need," Hodgeson says. "It will also go a long way to driving the adoption of PCs in the local market, since ultimately it will lower the barrier to entry for many potential users."
"While many agreements have been signed, we are still working on the other interested parties and have quite a bit of education to carry out in the local PC channel," Hodgeson explains. "Our efforts to educate the channel will start with a road-show to local system builders, with the message that the adoption of Linux and Open Source Software is happening in the market and the channel needs to be prepared for the questions customers will be asking and the growing interest in Linux over the coming months.
"By gaining knowledge and becoming specialists in the Linux space, hardware channel partners will have a competitive edge and be in a position to better service their customers," Hodgeson says.
In conjunction with this initiative, Novell will also be launching its long-awaited Linux support-line and support ecosystem. "We realise that the only way customers are going to feel comfortable using Linux and Open Source is if there is a reliable support infrastructure in place.
All new computers pre-loaded with SUSE Linux will carry a sticker of authenticity (SOA) with a unique identification number. When users phone the support line, they will be required to supply the engineer with this unique number in order to verify the authenticity of their product and gain support," Hodgeson explains.
"The most exciting prospect however is the amount of revenue local companies receive as a result of this initiative," Hodgeson says. "The OEM product will be locally manufactured, sold as part of locally-assembled PCs, supported by a locally-manned call centre and marketed by local hardware resellers and solutions providers. Novell has also agreed to donate a substantial portion of the revenues to the Digital Hope foundation, a non-profit organisation aimed at the upliftment of learners through the roll-out of computing infrastructure and technology to underprivileged schools.
"This is a massive step in the right direction, since the revenue gained from sales of the product contributes to the local economy, the development of local companies, not to mention the upliftment of the youth and most importantly a sustainable business model. We are extremely excited about the initiative and believe it will achieve huge success over the coming months," continues Hodgeson.
"Open source software takes us from being adopters to innovators. It may be a very small step but this is a journey towards the vision of creating an internationally recognised software development and manufacturing industry in our country. An affordable computer in every home in our country, with software that is rich in functionality and not limited to proprietary licensing, will create a breeding ground for entrepeneurs."
The OEM initiative went live at the beginning of September and the OEM product is now available.
For more information contact Trish Barwick, marketing and channel manager, Novell SA, 011 322 8300, firstname.lastname@example.org