Review: Sun Desktop System

For users looking for a Java-based deployment and development environment, Sun's recently announced Java Desktop System 2.0 offers a strong option.
For customers looking for a Java-based deployment and development environment, Sun's recently announced Java Desktop System 2.0 offers a strong option.

Most Linux distributions do not preinstall Java-based deployment and development environments. Installing and configuring them is often left to administrators, and if there are many different versions to install, it can be difficult to make Java-based software work smoothly.

This is not the case with Sun's Java Desktop 2.0, since it is preconfigured to work with StarOffice and Mozilla. Sun's Java Desktop also includes Adobe's Acrobat reader, RealPlayer and Macromedia's Flash plug-ins.

Sun's Java Desktop is built on an enterprise distribution of SUSE Linux Desktop 8.1, and the next version will use SUSE's 9.1 kernel. The Linux kernel is fairly old but stable, making it suitable for enterprise desktops.

Sun has replaced SUSE's version of the GNOME user interface with its own version, and installs it as the default GUI desktop. Users who are comfortable with the KDE user interface will adapt quickly because many of the concepts used in GNOME have close counterparts in KDE. For instance, GNOME's file manager combines files, folders, network groups, desktops, URIs and FTP sites into a single view similar to that of Microsoft Windows Explorer and KDE.

Java Desktop arrives with an instant messaging client called GAIM as well as a client for Java instant messaging. The OS also includes Ximian's Evolution e-mail client, a Unix-based e-mail program primarily used in Linux and Sun's Solaris. Evolution's look and feel are similar to Microsoft Outlook but by default does not connect to Internet messaging servers. Sun includes a connector that allows Evolution to use the Java system calendar server and plans to add compatibility with Microsoft Exchange using a Ximian connector by the end of 2004.

Compared to most Linux distributions, installation was easy and straightforward, and all applications supported by Sun worked well. CRN Test Center engineers encountered minor refresh problems with the desktop, but the OS never froze during testing.

Sun's Java Desktop 2.0 system is priced at $100 per desktop per year. However, Sun has promotional pricing of $50 per desktop per year for the first year, until December 2004.

Sun's two-tiered iForce channel program allows partners to receive Web-based baseline certification courses at no charge. Sun recommends this training for its lower-tier channel partners, but for solution providers in its Premier level, the training is mandatory.

Premier partners are eligible to receive rebates and co-marketing funds. A dedicated site for resellers offers sales and marketing material, technical support, best practices and competencies information. The company did not disclose the average reseller margin.

> Java Desktop System 2.0
COMPANY: Sun Microsystems
Santa Clara, Calif.
(650) 960-1300
DISTRIBUTORS: GE Access, Moca, Nexpress, NuHorizons, Tech Data

Note: Vendors can earn up to five stars for technical merit and five for their channel program. If the average of these two scores is four stars or greater, the product earns CRN Test Center Recommended status.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing