Sun mulls open-sourcing Java Desktop System

Sun is considering open-sourcing the Java Desktop System after the operating system did not live up to its initial hype.

Sun Microsystems is pulling back plans to market and sell its Linux-based desktop operating system and is considering giving the technology to the open-source community, the company quietly admitted at JavaOne this week.

John Loiacono, executive vice president of Sun software, said Sun's plans for the Java Desktop System (JDS) have "changed slightly," and Sun may open the operating system to community development.

"There will be less of an investment of putting JDS on Linux," Loiacono said. "More likely, you'll see us look to the community, to give that to the community to run with it."

Sun had high hopes for JDS when it launched the system under the code name Project Mad Hatter in September 2002. JDS is the integration of several open-source offerings -- including the StarOffice suite, the Mozilla browser, the GNOME interface and the Evolution e-mail and calendar application -- into a desktop operating system.

In July 2003, Sun President and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz, then in the position Loiacono holds now, lauded the operating system as a potential Microsoft Windows killer that Sun hoped would populate 50 million desktops by 2006.

Now that JDS has not taken off as Sun hoped, open-sourcing the operating system may not seem like a stretch, particularly in light of Sun's recent strategy of opening up software that was previously proprietary. The project to open source Solaris went live two weeks ago, and this week at JavaOne Sun also unveiled an open-source version of its Java application server and an ESB (enterprise service bus).

JDS isn't the first Sun Linux project that has failed to live up to its initial hype. In September 2000, the company bought Cobalt Networks in the hopes of jump-starting its Linux low-end server strategy. By the end of 2003, however, Sun had discontinued selling the Cobalt line of products.

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