Sun released an x86-compatible version of JDS 2 based on Solaris 9 for download on its Web site last week, along with 90-day trial software. Until now, JDS has been available only in a version based on Novells SuSE Linux Desktop 1.0; the Linux-based JDS 2 debuted in June.
The release gives companies already running Solaris workstations and Sun Ray thin clients the option to switch to the JDS look and feel without changing the underlying operating system.
Sun has committed to full support for Solaris in the third version of the Java Desktop System, due by the end of this year, which will see JDS running on SPARC as well as on x86. Version 3 will be easier to use and will allow JDS to synchronize calendar information with Exchange servers.
JDS is Suns entry into the increasingly high-profile market for desktop Linux systems; the company says it has done a better job than its Linux competitors of integrating operating system, applications and user interface.
In addition, Sun promises that JDS will be better able to interact with Microsoft products, due to a settlement with Microsoft that gives Sun access to proprietary Microsoft interfaces such as extensions to DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), Kerberos and DNS (Domain Name System).
This Microsoft integration will appear in future versions of JDS as well as in other Sun products, the company says. European Union courts are deliberating over whether Microsoft should be allowed to keep such interface information secret or should be compelled to license it to competitors.
Red Hat and Novell are two of the biggest players pushing business-oriented desktop Linux products—Novells upcoming product is also based on SuSE Linux, but uses the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) rather than the SuSE Linux Desktop.
A Solaris-based JDS might be useful for some, but the platforms real potential is as a Linux desktop, nearly identical to those of Red Hat, Novell and others, according to some industry analysts. "These Linux desktop alternatives will enable potential buyers—whether companies, governments, educational institutions or other organizations—to shop around for their core PC software from multiple suppliers," analyst firm New Rowley Group said in a study of JDS.
Other industry observers argue that the ability to stick with a consistent user interface across different operating systems is of genuine value to companies. The strategy could even be extended to a Windows-based JDS, although Sun has said it plans to support only Solaris and Linux.