Joy pans and praises Linux

Linux has a socialist bent and lacks a strong support strategy, but it allows developers freedom, Sun Microsystems Inc. co-founder and chief scientist Bill Joy said Tuesday during a software strategy session held several doors away from the LinuxWorld Expo conference here.

The session also featured Sun officials stressing that they want to provide an "alternative desktop" to what Microsoft is offering, based on products such as the StarOffice applications package and the SunRay desktop hardware unit.

Joy -- one of the co-founders of Sun in 1982 along with current Sun President, Chairman, and CEO Scott McNealy, Andy Bechtolsheim, and Vinod Khosla -- sized up the open-source Linux platform against the Berkeley Unix OS he designed before joining Sun.

"BSD [Berkeley Software Distribution, the Berkeley version of Unix] wasn't quite as socialist as Linux," Joy said "A lot more people have more opportunities to make money on it. But [BSD] doesn't have the strength of community that Linux has."

Joy criticized Linux support offerings as lacking. "Most customers would rather have someone to call," he said. The business model for open-source companies has not really worked out, Joy added.

Joy also stressed, "The good thing about open source is customers can take your product and do things [vendors] don't have to be involved in," Joy said. "But the problem is, people want support."

Open source is about competing for the egos of developers, he said. Linux, he noted, is derived fundamentally from a Unix kernel and is in fact just a kernel.

"Berkeley Unix was the whole thing," Joy said.

Open source is nice, but software that works is better, Joy said.

Earlier in the day at LinuxWorld Expo, McNealy during a keynote address touted a new Linux server that runs Sun's own distribution of Linux, called Sun Linux. McNealy also promised that Sun will not fragment the Linux community as the Unix world was fragmented.

Sun officials during the software strategy session stressed that the StarOffice platform, which runs on Linux, Solaris, and Windows, is part of the company's plan to provide an alternative desktop to Windows. The platform during coming years will be fitted with more localization, accessibility, Web services capabilities, and import/export functions, said Curtis Sasaki, vice president of desktop solutions at Sun.

Also part of Sun's plan is the SunRay system, a piece of desktop hardware consisting of a frame buffer with a keyboard and mouse interface. It links to back-end servers that serve up applications and an interface.

Sun's Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of software, said the company wants to synchronize releases of its Sun One software stack on the Sparc and Intel platforms.

"We believe the x86 [Intel] opportunity is there," Schwartz said.

Schwartz also stressed Sun's interest in portals. "The next wave of development [is not] happening on the application server. It's happening on the portal," he said. Functions such as security and directory are needed for portal development and Sun sees an opportunity in that, Schwartz said.

Sun also will continue driving Java as a standard platform for Web services, and SOlaris is also critical to Sun, Schwartz said.

"We are doubling our investment in Solaris," Schwartz explained.

Schwartz said Sun has a united software organization. "For the first time in a very long time, we actually have one consolidated software organization," Schwartz said. Sun is focusing on offerings for the data center, business logic, Web tier, the identity space, and access devices, he said.

"Desktops are not the most prevalent Internet access device. It's the cell phone [and other devices]," Schwartz said.

Sun released a software organization chart, with Schwartz at the top of the chart. Other Sun executives in the organization include Anil Gadre, head of marketing and business operations; Barbara Gordon, in charge of sales; John Fowler, CTO; and Steve Nathan, in charge of customer advocacy in solutions engineering.

Also on the chart are John Loiacono, in charge of operating systems and availability; Rich Green, responsible for the Java Community and Sun ONE tools; Mark Bauhaus, in charge of Sun ONE/Java Web Services; Stephen Pelletier, in charge of network identity, portals and communications; and Sasaki, responsible for desktops.

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