Suns Latest Plan: Project Mad Hatter

The plan essentially aims to bring to market a Linux desktop that is tied to a server.

SAN FRANCISCO—Sun Microsystems, Inc. on Wednesday announced "Project Mad Hatter," its plan to essentially bring to market a Linux desktop that is tied to a server.

Sun executives also made clear that the goal of the offering, as with their ongoing plan to bundle components of the SunONE stack into the Solaris operating environment, is to drive server sales.

The new client desktop, which is expected to be widely available in the first quarter of next year, will bring together off-the-shelf hardware, such as its Sun Ray thin client as the interface or a standard low-end desktop PC and open-source technology—namely the Linux operating system, the Mozilla browser, OpenOffice, the Evolution e-mail client and the GNOME desktop environment.

But Sun executives would not give any details on pricing for the new offering or reveal which OEM would supply the non-Sun hardware component. "All the major PC OEMs are interested, but we are not going to add value to that component," said Mark Tolliver, Suns chief strategy officer.

"All of the software is available today, but the integration of open-source software at the front-end is not as good as wed like, so were moving forward on that. You can expect to see a prototype out in iForce technology showrooms within 60 days and delivery following the sign-up of hardware partners and as the software develops," he said.

Jonathan Schwartz, who heads Suns software group, said the five-year total for its solution was $296,040—versus more than a million dollars for a stand-alone PC solution.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst with Giga Information Group, Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., expected the desktop offering to be based around a server. "Its most likely it will run on the recently released LX50 server, which runs both Solaris 9 and Suns Linux —whichever the customer chooses," she said.

"This is a no-brainer for Sun, as its pretty much just packaging, bundling and pitching their existing products into a SunONE desktop offering," she said.