Sun 'on track' for Linux desktop push

With the 'Mad Hatter' project, a beefed-up form of the old thin-client idea, Sun will be delivering Linux-based desktop machines that promise to undercut Windows

Sun Microsystems may be planning to drop its private-label version of Linux for servers, but the company is still on track with a Linux-based desktop system that should hit the market this summer, the company said.

Sun showed off prototypes of the desktop machines, code-named "Mad Hatter", to customers at the CeBIT trade fair last month, according to the head of Sun Germany, Helmut Wilke. The desktop will bundle several off-the-shelf hardware and software components, including StarOffice, Sun's productivity suite; Evolution, an Outlook clone; and the Gnome desktop environment. It is aimed at businesses such as call centres, where users only need access to a limited set of functions, and will be closely integrated with Sun servers to give IT managers maximum flexibility.

Wilke said that Mad Hatter would be based on a version of Linux being customised by Sun. Sun introduced its own-brand Linux last autumn, a modified version of Red Hat's Linux distribution, but said last week that it would stop offering the software in favour of working with several established Linux companies.

Sun believes chief information officers will buy Mad Hatter because of its adherence to open standards and the control it gives to system administrators, but also because it promises to be significantly less expensive than licensing Windows and Microsoft applications for the desktop.

"With Microsoft's 'Software Assurance' (the company's controversial new licensing plan), that woke (companies) up even more to software costs," said Curtis Sasaki, vice president of Sun's desktop solutions, in a recent interview. "In a lot of ways, I think that drove them to begin to look at alternatives that might also solve problems besides cost."


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