RealTime IT News

A Sun Ray in Every Home?

Sun Microsystems is preparing a drive to put Sun Ray computers in more homes as part of its expanded desktop vision, internetnews.com has learned.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker has scheduled an event on December 10 to highlight what it said is its "consumer-facing technology and provide insight into Sun's software portfolio leading into 2005."

Under the umbrella theme "Sun Software: Simplifying Business, Simplifying Life," Sun said it will launch key desktop products including its latest Sun Ray thin clients -- low-cost, low-energy computers without hard or floppy disk drives, CD-ROMs, or embedded software that can become corrupted by viruses or become obsolete.

The event will be hosted by executive vice president of software, John Loiacono, and is expected to include appearances by customers and partners. Sun is also expected to unveil the latest product upgrades to its Java Desktop Software, which is enhanced to take advantage of the Sun Ray systems.

Sun has been working hard to increase the visibility of its Sun Ray lineup. The company usually pairs its JDS platform with hardware as it looks to convert corporations and governments from Windows.

The Sun Java Desktop System is a combination of a GNOME desktop environment, StarOffice productivity suite, Mozilla browser, Evolution e-mail and calendar client, RealNetworks' RealONE player, Macromedia Flash, Java 2 Standard Edition, and SUSE Linux operating system.

Sun said its Sun Ray vision is better than most VPN network configurations because Sun Ray requires no administration at the desktop. Administrators can manage up to 2,000 Sun Ray clients, and users access their session via a smart card instead of relying solely on a password.

A Sun spokesperson declined to give more details but said the Sun Ray products would not be available to average consumers, but to enterprise customers with employees that telecommute and need such access.

Sun's COO, Jonathan Schwartz, hinted about the Sun Ray program during his keynote at this month's Solaris 10 launch party.

Analyst Michael Dortch of IT research firm Robert Frances Group is predicting Sun will offer the thin clients and the JDS platform as part of a package deal, probably as part of a per-user/per-month subscription that could also bundle in other Sun peripherals such as its new switches and StoreEdge products.

"Sun's Sun Ray technologies and offerings collectively represent some of Sun's most potentially powerful, chronically underappreciated assets," Dortch told internetnews.com.

"Every organization that has deployed them, including Sun itself, appears to love Sun Rays, but many, many more people have never heard of them. If Sun can convince enterprises and other organizations that have adopted the Java Desktop System to test-drive some Sun Rays, those users could quickly become advocates and evangelists. Sun should seriously consider free trial use periods for its Sun Rays. Once many users have experienced the ease of use, performance, and security possible with these systems, Sun may have to pry its Sun Rays out of the hands of those users -- or get them to write checks to Sun."