Sun cools on desktops

Sun cools down Linux desktop plan | CNET News.com

After three years of efforts to bring Linux to the desktop, Sun says it’s moving away from that direction.

“Sun Microsystems is stepping away from an effort to sell the Linux operating system for desktop computers, the server and software company’s top software executive said Tuesday.

‘You’re going to see less of an emphasis on JDS on Linux,’ Loiacono said. ‘The strategy has changed slightly.'”

That’s a big change from three years ago, when Sun launched the project and Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy touted JDS–then code-named Project Mad Hatter–as a combination of a server and Linux PCs that would be more cost-effective than Microsoft Windows. A server and 100 PCs would cost about $300,000 over five years, Sun said at the time. Later, the company revealed that JDS was based on Novell’s Suse desktop Linux software.

“Linux is popular on servers, but it’s a hard sell for desktop computing, where Microsoft has a stronghold. Sun still has other efforts afoot in the market, however. One is its StarOffice software–a competitor to Microsoft Office and a close relative of the open-source OpenOffice.org. Another is its Sun Ray thin clients, which are display screens that rely on a central server to handle processing duties and that are being augmented with Windows abilities through Sun’s acquisition of Tarantella.

One casualty of the JDS changes could be a partnership with the China Standard Software Co. (CSSC), a consortium of companies supported by the Chinese government, which Sun said in 2003 would adopt Sun’s desktop Linux. ‘We’re going to immediately roll out the Java Desktop System to between a half million and a million desktops in 2004. It makes us instantaneously the No. 1 Linux desktop play on the planet,’ McNealy said at the time.”

Perhaps a factor in Sun’s inability to make a huge dent in the desktop market is its pricing. With so many Linux distributions available for little or no cost, and with the home user not requiring, or wishing to pay for, the support expected by businesses, Sun was up against stiff competition from within the Linux community itself.

And yet, we may still see Sun try to stay in the game. “It’s possible the idea could resurface later, Gardner added. ‘I think Sun would love to convince a major (telecommunications service) carrier that providing a desktop format as a service is a great idea. JDS will probably be relegated to the back burner on simmer until the conditions are right for the carriers to do that.'”