RealTime IT News

Sun Lights up Java Desktop on x86

Sun Microsystems has taken the wraps off a new version of its Java Desktop System (JDS) running on its Solaris OS.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker, which made its JDS Release 2 software available this past weekend, said it has now ported the desktop environment to Solaris running Intel and AMD x86-based servers and workstations.

The download includes free trial downloads for 30 days and promotional pricing as low as $25 per user per year. A spokesperson for Sun was not immediately available to comment on the alternative to Microsoft Windows.

Like its SPARC-based counterparts, JDS for x86 is a combination of 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, but with a Solaris operating system instead of its common SUSE Linux backing. 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.

About the only things Sun has not been able to bundle in its next JDS are extensions based on its new relationship with Microsoft . Sun has previously 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.

"For those environments already running Solaris and deploying or considering doing so on x86 platforms, JDS for x86 could be a boon," Michael Dortch, a principal business analyst and IT infrastructure management practice leader for IT research firm Robert Frances Group, told internetnews.com.

"Now IT executives can begin allowing advanced users to explore the software features and interoperability with incumbent solutions at little to no risk," Dortch continued. "And with the new detente between Sun and Microsoft, interoperability with Microsoft Office should only get better, giving IT executives more choice and pricing flexibility without requiring Microsoft to cut prices or deal with 'unauthorized' users of its discounted educational versions of Microsoft Office.

"Now, if Sun would only drop the other shoe and deliver JDS for Windows on x86, the enterprise desktop software market could become truly interesting while we all wait for Longhorn to ship."

New for the JDS Release 2 is a new System Update Service that automates installs updates and patches and the GNOME Input Method Language Engine (GIMLET) to change the character set on the keyboard.

The platform also includes the Java Desktop System Configuration Manager, Release 1, which defines groups of users and the policies for access rights and settings, a remote Desktop Takeover that lets administrators interact with a user's desktop display to help, guide and troubleshoot.

With a system purchase, Sun is including developer tools like its Sun Java Studio Standard 5 update 1 Technology Preview, NetBeans IDE 3.6 and the Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition (J2SE) 1.4.2_04, which includes the SDK.

Jonathan Eunice, president principal analyst and IT advisor at tech research firm Illuminata, points out that its actually the Linux edition that is the most important one market-wise, because Linux has far better and broader hardware support on desktop and laptop hardware.

"Sure, there will be some number of units on which Solaris x86 (v9 or v10) will run, but it will be very small by comparison to what Novell/SUSE, Red Hat and all of the other folks working on Linux can provide," Eunice said. "Linux is also the x86-enabled flavor of Unix that has mindshare and attention in the OEM community -- those making graphics cards, network adapters, and other hardware gizmos."

Eunice also points out that it's not that hard for Sun to also support Solaris, and it reinforces with customers that Sun "is serious about" Solaris x86.

"A few people, including Sun folks, may even run JDS on Solaris. But JDS for Linux is the key to broader acceptance," he said.

Sun's porting Solaris and related applications to x86 is a saga within itself. After backing away from engineering its operating system to non-SPARC chips after the dot-com bust, the company quickly returned to the project after developer and customer backlash.

Since that time, Sun has been using the x86 versions of its operating system as a leveraging tool against its rivals IBM, HP and Dell.