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Sun\'s Linux desktop looking to spur Java development

By   |  September 26, 2003

Sun Microsystems last week officially launched its Linux-based desktop suite during its SunNetwork Conference. The suite, which is based around a Linux core and bundled with many of the most popular and mature open source applications available, is being marketed by Sun as a low cost alternative to the many other desktop options currently available.

And while the core of the product is built on a Linux base and the majority of applications are Linux-based the company has officially named the suite the \”Sun Java Desktop\” and is very clearly not overly keen on branding the product as a Linux one.

Dumisani Mtoba a senior systems engineer at Sun Microsystems South Africa says the emphasis with the suite is on promoting an alternative Java-based desktop and the focus should not be solely on the Linux aspect. \”The emphasis here is on cross platform compatibility and creation of a Java development platform. Sun is very strongly committed to creating the appropriate platforms for Java development … and our ideal is to see a proliferation of Java applications. If developers are writing to an operating system then they lose the cross platform capability.\”

The Java Desktop,however, stills looks remarkably similar to that used by a growing number of Linux users: Evolution for email, Mozilla for browsing the Web, a Gnome backdrop and Sun\’s own StarOffice7 on the desktop. But under the surface, says Mtoba, Java has been tightly integrated into the system giving the suite it\’s official name. For most users, however, the Java aspect wont be the first thing they notice. What they probably will notice though is the remarkable similarity the suite has with the Windows operating system. \”The emphasis has been on giving the desktop a (very) similar look and feel to Windows. We did this to minimise the learning curve that users would need to go through,\” says Mtoba. A quick look at the desktop in default mode shows the standard MyComputer, Documents, Trash and NetworkPlaces icons and in place of the iconographic \”Gnome Foot\” in the left hand side of the bottom bar, there is a \”Launch\” button and the familiar branding down the left hand side of the menu that pops up.

Sun will be supplying the new Java Desktop in two versions, says Mtoba. There will be an enterprise version which will include the SunOne server-side components as well as the desktop components. The standard version will be the desktop only and will be charged for on a per-seat licensing basis. \”We are also looking at ways of addressing the volume market. Most users are using Intel-based systems for productivity and we are looking to offer them the Java Desktop as an alternative.\”

Despite Sun\’s heavy emphasis on the Java components of the desktop Mtoba says that the release of this suite is also a tacit acknowledgement that Linux is ready for the desktop. \”Linux is just a spoke in the wheel, albeit a very important part of the desktop. Linux is ready for the desktop, so long as as a range o components are present. And with the Java Desktop we are trying to do exactly this,\” says Mtoba.

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