GNOME aims to unify Unix, Linux desktops

Linux and Unix got a step closer this week as two leading Unix companies announced they are joining a new partnership to create a common desktop interface for the two operating systems.

Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems announced that they are joining the GNOME Foundation, a collaboration between commercial technology vendors and several open source groups to create a common desktop based on the GNOME desktop. Additionally, HP and Sun announced that they will include the next version of the GNOME desktop environment as the default desktop on future shipments of the companies' respective HP-UX and Solaris Unix operating systems. GNOME is currently the default desktop that ships with most major Linux distributions.

The GNOME Foundation was announced Tuesday at LinuxWorld in San Jose, California.

Members of the GNOME Foundation include Compaq Computer; The Free Software Foundation; Gnumatic (an open source application developer); GNOME distributors Helix Code and Eazel; Henzai (a developer of handheld Linux systems); IBM; ObjectManagement Group Inc. (an open source development organisation); Red Hat; TurboLinux and VA Linux Systems.

Our goal is to provide one unified user environment for Unix and Linux," said Miguel de Icaza, co-founder of GNOME distributor Helix Code and founder of the GNOME Foundation, during a LinuxWorld press conference on Tuesday. Having a common organisation of large technology vendors and open source organisations to collaborate on a common Linux/Unix desktop will be a first for the open source community, de Icaza said.

"GNOME has been an ongoing project involving over 500 developers across the Internet," he said. "In the past, when companies wanted to address the GNOME project, they didn't know how to do it."He added that because the GNOME Foundation is being based on the principles of the General Public License, which keeps open source software from being made proprietary by any one company, there is no threat that a company or group will take over developments made by the foundation.

GNOME Foundation members will also work to incorporate office productivity applications into the next GNOME release from, a development project based on open source technology from Sun's StarOffice office application suite. Sun licensed StarOffice to the open source community in July.

"With GNOME, we're not just creating a good user environment," says Marco Boerries, vice president of application software at Sun, who was an original developer of the StarOffice suite. "We're creating a complete user environment" by including an office suite standard in GNOME, Boerries adds.

Additionally, the GNOME foundation will oversee the integration of Mozilla - the open source version of the Netscape browser - into the GNOME desktop for Linux and Unix.

HP and Sun will continue to support their existing common desktop environment desktops for their respective Unix versions. Both companies plan to ship GNOME 2.0 with HP-UX and Solaris workstations in the first half of 2001 when it becomes available.

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