Most new users to the Linux platform have no idea just how much work is put into making sure Linux has the best hardware support possible. Not only is most of this support provided in the kernel with zero driver install efforts in addition to not streamlining the process for end users installing their own drivers, should the kernel not include them.
In addition to all of that, the Linux Driver Project team will also extend their services in writing a driver for any hardware manufacturer that requests help with such. Let me tell you, I have yet to see this kind of help for free on other platforms. Generally speaking in that sense, the hardware vendor would need to develop their own.
And finally, despite the ongoing criticism Novell receives, it is once again their dollars that allow at least one full time developer to work on the project, in conjunction with a few hundred volunteers.