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.

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