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SmartAdvice: Windows Versus Java Desktop System

Consider support costs along with functionality when deciding whether to move to Java Desktop System, The Advisory Council says. Also, examine your priorities when divvying up work and personal time.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers three questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to smartadvice@tacadvisory.com


Question A: We're considering moving some users from Windows to Sun's Java Desktop System. Under what circumstances would this be a smart decision?

Our advice: Sun's Java Desktop System is an affordable, easy-to-use, secure enterprise-grade desktop solution. It consists of a fully integrated client environment based on open-source components and industry standards. It includes a well-defined, integrated look and feel, familiar desktop themes, as well as interoperability with Microsoft Windows and Linux/Unix, at a fraction of the price of a Microsoft Windows desktop. However, moving to Java Desktop System may not be the smartest move for all enterprises. There are some risks involved. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of Java Desktop System.

Java Desktop System Pros

  • Office productivity: Most reports, reviews and users agree that StarOffice outperforms Microsoft Office in terms of its interface and features.
  • Internet browser: Albeit not quite the killer app, Sun gives users a full suite of Internet applications in addition to an excellent Internet browser.
  • Graphics and multimedia: JDS offers a complete suite of graphics tools and the Xine multimedia player.
  • Pricing and ROI: JDS is priced at $100 per user license, and is therefore significantly more cost-effective than Windows. However, the actual ROI will depend upon a weighted average of the pros and cons of the system itself.
  • Security: Built-in security infrastructure reduces risk of data corruption and loss. Linux/Unix strict security system root access control prevents viruses from modifying files and/or infecting the system environment.
  • Interoperable: It's easy to share files and documents between JDS and its Microsoft and Unix counterparts, as well as to leverage back-end systems with existing Sun software and the Java development platform.


Related Links

Unix Review: The Java Desktop System

Sun Java Desktop System

JDS Cons
  • Licensing: The JDS licensing agreement is overly complex and restrictive. You'll want your legal department to pore over it before you consider making a buy recommendation on it.
  • Support: Based on reports and reviews, it's clear that the "global sourcing" of support staff, the hoops and loops in the support process, and the potentially expensive support bills after the 60-day free support, all make for an unpleasant support experience.
  • Installation: Challenges abound with installation on "modern" machines (desktops and laptops). While it's impossible to create a comprehensive list here, the point to note is that you shouldn't expect the software to work on every desktop platform that you select. It does seem to work well on older machines, however.

Conclusions
Java Desktop System is a viable alternative to Microsoft Windows. Given its infancy, it poses some challenges to users as well as company IT departments, and therefore may not be quite ready for prime time. However, its low price tag makes it a worthy contender in the decision-making process to upgrade versus replace existing Microsoft Windows desktops. The decision will need to be made keeping in mind features, functionality, support, usability, infrastructure, and price.

  • Evaluate JDS based on industry reviews, end-user beta tests, and peer experiences.
  • The ROI analysis must include both quantitative as well as qualitative elements.
  • Consider a phased move to JDS, if at all. Remember that subsequent releases of JDS will eliminate many of the problems with the current release.
  • Don't jump to conclusions on this very important desktop decision.
  • --Sanjay Anand

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