Linux gains desktop steam

Sun exec says Linux has 'unstoppable desktop momentum'

Some of the groundwork needed to entrench Linux on the desktop was done at LinuxWorld last week. Novell formally announced its purchase of Ximian, and Sun Microsystems demonstrated its open source desktop client, code-named Mad Hatter and due this fall.

Novell and Sun got some help on the hardware side, with Penguin Computing and IBM confirming they each would deliver workstations powered by AMD’s 64-bit Opteron chip later this month and next year, respectively.

While Microsoft officials said they will ship a version of Windows for the chip early next year, desktop implementations of Linux for the 64-bit chip are already available.

Besides generally beefing up Provo, Utah-based Novell’s presence in the Linux market, one specific motivation for the Ximian acquisition is obtaining a proven Linux desktop in Ximian’s Desktop 2, which supports Windows applications.

Some analysts view the melding of other products as potentially more important for forging a compelling desktop strategy against Microsoft, namely Novell’s ZenWorks systems management offering and Ximian’s Red Carpet update management software.

“With [ZenWorks and Red Carpet] together, suddenly you can do updates and systems management things, such as pushing patches out, but also configure and manage systems from a policy perspective,” said Al Gillen, vice president of system software research at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

Novell also gains control of Ximian’s Mono Project, which allows Linux to work with Microsoft’s .Net.

“It is a huge step forward for the open source community, given that projects like Mono and Gnome can gain more technical resources from a company like Novell,” said Ximian CTO Miguel de Icaza, who will continue to oversee both Mono and Gnome at Novell.

Novell also said its GroupWise collaboration suite will run on Linux in the first half of 2004.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun showed off the Java-laced Mad Hatter project, an open source alternative to the Windows stack. Mad Hatter contains one-for-one replacements of all components, including Gnome, Mozilla, Evolution, StarOffice, and IM.

Continuing the Alice in Wonderland theme, Sun demonstrated Looking Glass, a prototype desktop environment that resembles Apple’s Mac OS X. During a demonstration at the show, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s executive vice president of software, showed off the product’s capability of taking on 3-D characteristics.

According to Schwartz, Linux has “unstoppable desktop momentum.

“The cynicism around Linux on the desktop is beginning to lift,” Schwartz added, pointing to Sun’s StarOffice and Open Office, of which 40 million copies have been downloaded.

Top-tier Linux players made noise on the server side, including SuSE Linux, which intends to ship an early version of its Enterprise Server 9.0 by year’s end. One of the improvements expected in the upcoming Version 9.0 will be ease-of-use features, including some that boost configuring clusters.

“We are focusing hard now on configurations and front-end technologies,” said Markus Rex, Nuremburg, Germany-based SuSE’s vice president of development.

Red Hat, based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., promised to contribute code to JOnAS (Java Open Application Server), an open source implementation of J2EE, and to OpenEJB, a project to produce a version of Enterprise Java Beans. Red Hat also said it plans to support the Eclipse development environment and may include Eclipse in a bundle.

Trying to soothe users irritated by its copyright infringement lawsuit, The SCO Group announced a license that would give users the right to run Linux. The SCO Intellectual Property License for Linux allows customers to use the open source operating system without violating SCO’s copyrighted Unix System V source code.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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