Dublin strategic in Sun’s assault on Windows

29 Jan 2004

Key elements of Sun Microsystem’s Java Desktop System (JDS), which is attempting to tackle the virtual monopoly of Microsoft Windows on corporate desktops, have been developed in Dublin.

Sun’s Dublin-based Strategic Software Development Centre was responsible for contributing to the development of the open source GNOME desktop, which is the foundation of JDS as well as taking overall design lead on assembly and integration of the various components that make up the product.

Although challenging Microsoft’s desktop stranglehold may seem like folly a number of international organisations, including major public sector and government agencies, are either seriously evaluating JDS or have approved it for purchase. The UK’s Office of Government Commerce, which oversees public sector procurement, has done a five-year deal with Sun to bundle JDS with Java Enterprise System and ancillary services in a package called Government Open System, which will be available to all UK public sector bodies.

The National Health Service is also conducting a major evaluation of the software. Both these deals follow on from an announcement late last year that the China Standard Software Company, a government-backed alliance of Chinese IT companies, chose JDS as its standard desktop environment.

Boasting a look and feel very similar to Windows, JDS, which was codenamed Mad Hatter during development, combines a number of open source applications with Sun’s own Java technology to provide a Linux- or Solaris-based desktop at a third of the cost of a Microsoft Windows and Office upgrade. According to Robert O’Dea, director of engineering for desktop software at Sun’s Dublin operation, organisations that adopt JDS don’t just make savings from lower licensing costs. O’Dea says savings can also be made through prolonging hardware life, lower service costs through deals Sun has struck with third parties such as EDS and reduced downtime.

Components of JDS include a Linux operating system, the Mozilla web browser, Ximian’s Evolution email client, Sun’s StarOffice productivity suite, a Java 2 runtime environment and the GNOME desktop. Sun is stressing that while most of these components are readily available from a number of sources the key is that it has put a lot of work in integrating the applications and ensuring the stability of the desktop. This integration work was carried out by the Dublin operation.

O’Dea believes the deals cut for JDS already indicate that there is an appetite for an alternative to Windows even though it enjoys a market share of more than 95pc. “Its day has come — the desktop systems group in Sun has only been in existence for a year but the model has been validated already,” says O’Dea. “Once the initial barrier is overcome and people see other people achieving the savings we promise, more and more companies will begin to adopt.”

By John Collins