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Sun Closes in On Java Desktop 2.0

Sun Microsystems is fast approaching its second-generation desktop software, while acknowledging its momentum in the enterprise.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker said Thursday it is on track to deliver the 2.0 version of its Java Desktop System (JDS) in early May 2004. Core to the upcoming release is the addition of management software and control features (code-named APOC).

The Windows desktop alternative includes a GNOME desktop environment, StarOffice productivity suite (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database capabilities), Mozilla browser, Evolution e-mail and calendar client, RealNetworks' RealONE player, Macromedia Flash, Java 2 Standard Edition, and a Linux operating system. The JDS also allows users to play CDs and DVDs. Prices for enterprise start at $25 per desktop per year for the desktop software, maintenance, support and training.

And while Microsoft Windows is still the dominant desktop software, Curtis Sasaki, Sun vice president of Desktop Solutions told internetnews.com having more control on the back-end in version 2.0 was imperative to gaining support in the enterprise to help boost productivity.

"If all employees have the same desktop, productivity suffers because employees will go to non-work related sites -- checking stocks or shopping on eBay," Sasaki said. "APOC allows an enterprise to set up policies and store them in a directory. Sun's Java Enterprise System in the back-end is a perfect compliment to JDS. We've also extended capabilities to store the preferences in Active Directory."

Sasaki said the next generation desktop would also expand the number of CDs from five to ten to accommodate the bundled management software but also developer tools such as NetBeans and related Java Development Kit as well as a one-year free subscription to Java.com. Version 2.0 is also expected to add support for open source file and print client SAMBA 3.

As for updates, patches and support, Sun said it is relying on help from its partner Electronic Data Systems to help handle the calls. Customers are still allowed to either have the patches sent to servers inside a company's firewall or contact Sun individually for download.

About the only things Sun has not been able to bundle in its next JDS are extensions based on its new relationship with Microsoft . Sasaki said that level of support will come in due time through the use of shared APIs and protocols for Exchange.

Sun is also keeping its graphically enhanced user interface (code-named Looking Glass) for a version of JDS beyond version 2.0. According to Sasaki, developer Hideya Kawahara is on a slightly different schedule but is expected to make some noise at this summer's Java ONE conference and transform the software from a demo to a clean API stack as well as developing an SDK.

Now Sun is celebrating its 21st partner, an achievement that started with China Standard Software and has extended globally to Japanese software distributor SOURCENEXT, Pebblerock in the U.K., Naturetech in Taiwan, Xandros in Canada, Markement in Germany and Ingram Micro Asia in Singapore.

Sun has even tapped into the American market with help from OEMs like Tadpole, DJ Computers, and TR but also with its largest contract Microtel, which is now Sun's largest distribution partner courtesy of Wal-Mart .

The company also noted its U.S. government customers, in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines as well as its enterprise customer AT&T Wireless.

Earlier this week, Sun offered a discount to its iForce reseller partners: $50 per employee per year for Sun Java Enterprise System software and $25 per desktop per year for Sun Java Desktop System software. Qualifying companies of less than 100 employees are also eligible to get the JES for free.

Sun said its future JDS are also planned to support workstations and Sun Ray thin clients running the Solaris Operating Environment.