Sun Microsystems today will officially announce the Java Desktop System, a Linux-based desktop and application suite formerly
Hatter" at the opening keynote of its SunNetwork Conference. Sun will also
announce Star Office 7, which includes integrated PDF export and support for MS
Office macros, and the Java Enterprise System, which includes a management
console that will allow administrators very "fine-grained" remote control of
machines running Java Desktop System.
Sun will also announce an ISV program with
Java as the preferred development platform. Built on Gnome 2.2, the Sun
desktop offers what Curtis Sasaki, Sun vice president of desktop software
engineering, called "a full stack," an X-based desktop with productivity
applications and widgets developed by both the Open Source community and Sun.
Sun expects to sell the desktop for $50 a seat to large enterprise and
educational customers but is not interested in targeting home users or Linux
enthusiasts. The Java Desktop System runs on Linux, Solaris and, soon, Solaris x86 as
well as Sun's Sun Ray thin client machines.
The Java Desktop System should run
on most Linux distributions, but Sun's installer CD uses the most recent SuSE
Linux distribution, according to Sasaki. During a demo at Sun on Friday, Sasaki
showed work Sun had done to integrate the desktop applications, including
Mozilla and Evolution, with Sun One and Windows network services. For example,
clicking on a name in a directory list pulled up from an LDAP widget caused a
new, pre-addressed Evolution e-mail to appear. Sasaki said that Sun would also
demo desktop syncing with external devices, including the PocketPC.
Sasaki said that SAP and Computer
Associates had both done work to integrate the new Star Office suite and
Java Desktop System into their applications, and that Sun would also be
announcing relationships with Adobe, Macromedia and Real Networks, as well.
Sasaki said that the Linux desktop was part of a holistic approach in which
Sun would offer integrated systems and services that would target specific
niches in large enterprises. He cited retail customers, where management of
remote systems was expensive and problematic, as well as government offices and
large educational institutions where the cost of Microsoft products had become
an issue. He also noted keen interest by governments -- including China, Korea,
Germany and Brazil -- that were eager to reduce dependency on Microsoft.
will distribute Star Office free to some educational customers, he said. Sasaki
said that Sun was also integrating VOIP with the Java Desktop System, so that
thin-client users would get their apps, email and phone calls forwarded to
whatever machine they happened to be sitting at. The Sun system will also
support remote thin clients over the Internet using 128-bit encryption. Big
enterprise clients still have large installations of OS/2 and Windows 95,
according to Sasaki.
With IBM and Microsoft about to end support for those
products, he believes that the Java Desktop System will be an attractive
alternative for certain segments. One customer, he noted, was thinking of
mandating that 20% of its systems be non-Microsoft, so that the company's
critical functions could continue during a major worm or virus attack. By
offering Java Desktop System across its product line, Sun appears to be
aligning with a growing number of IT providers, including Novell and IBM, that
believe that Open Source is ready for prime time in the enterprise.
Chris Gulker, a Silicon Valley-based freelance technology writer,
has authored more than 130 articles and columns since 1998. He shares an office
with 7 computers that mostly work, an Australian Shepherd, and a small gray
cat with an attitude.