Sun exec demos Mad Hatter desktop

Presenting a vision of cooperation rather than competition between Java and Linux, Sun Executive Vice President of Software Jonathan Schwartz told an audience at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo on Tuesday to worry more about the quality of their code than the software licenses that govern it.

"The thing I worry about most with the open source community is the sentiment that open source is somehow different. It isn't," he said. What makes the company's forthcoming bundle of desktop software, Mad Hatter, appealing is not that it is based on open source software, he said, but rather that it's "better and it's cheaper."

Schwartz demoed Sun's best efforts to build a better and cheaper desktop, giving the audience a peek at not only Mad Hatter, which is expected to be released this fall, but also demoing a prototypical three dimensional desktop environment called Looking Glass.

Sun has maintained an air of mystery about what specific Linux distribution will form the basis of Mad Hatter, and yesterday Schwartz declined to name the distribution that his demonstration was based on, but in an interview he did confirm that Mad Hatter's distribution will contain code contributed by Sun. The product that Schwartz demoed contained the name "Sun Desktop."

Java, it turns out, will form an important part of Mad Hatter, and Schwartz emphasized its synergy with Linux. "If you think of where Java and Linux are going, they tend to go hand in hand," said Schwartz in a keynote today."They all require the infrastructure that runs on the back of the network... Linux opens up the network and makes huge applications relevant," he said, adding that this was good for Sun's business.

Mad Hatter desktops will use JavaCards for authentication and will include a Java virtual machine, as well as open software including the GNOME (GNU Object Model Environment) desktop interface, the Mozilla browser, the Evolution personal information manager, and the Gaim instant message client.

Mad Hatter's JavaCard is one of the product's "most valuable assets," Schwartz said. Sun provides the specifications for manufacturers to make JavaCards, which are smart cards designed to run Java. Schwartz predicted that, more and more, clients and servers on the network will come to depend on the JavaCard to trust and authenticate to one another. "I expect to see every single vendor of every device that touches the network authenticating with JavaCard," he said.

Schwartz did not explain how this would happen without the support of Microsoft, who he predicted would pull Java from its Windows operating system by January 1, 2004.

Another important Mad Hatter component will be StarOffice, Sun's open source desktop productivity suite, which has now shipped over 40 million copies, according to Schwartz. "We think this is actually coming to a point where we're going to have a pretty interesting market opportunity," he said, adding that Sun had now signed up over 60 OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to distribute the software.

Mad Hatter's official launch will happen at Sun's SunNetwork conference in San Francisco, which begins on Sept. 16, Schwartz said. He predicted that Sun's desktop will cost 80 to 90 percent less than a Microsoft desktop, in a press conference after his keynote.

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