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LinuxWorld: Sun demos Mad Hatter desktop

Sun executive vice-president of software Jonathan Schwartz told an audience here at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo to worry more about the quality of their code than the software licences 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 is "better and it's cheaper".

Schwartz unveiled Sun's best efforts to build a better and cheaper desktop, giving the audience a peek at not only Mad Hatter, but also demonstrated a prototypical three dimensional desktop environment called Looking Glass.

Mad Hatter's distribution will contain code contributed by Sun, Schwartz said. 

Java will form an important part of Mad Hatter, and Schwartz emphasised its synergy with Linux.

"If you think of where Java and Linux are going, they tend to go hand in hand," said Schwartz. "They all require the infrastructure that runs on the back of the network... Linux opens up the network and makes huge applications relevant."

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 smartcards designed to run Java.

Schwartz predicted that 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 supplier 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 1 January next year.

Another important Mad Hatter component will be StarOffice, Sun's open source desktop productivity suite, which has now shipped over 40 million copies.

"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 16 September.

He predicted that Sun's desktop will cost 80% to 90% less than a Microsoft desktop.

Robert McMillian writes for IDG News Service


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