Sun Opens Its 3-D Looking Glass Linux Desktop

Updated: Sun will put into the hands of the open-source community Project Looking Glass, its next-generation, 3-D Linux desktop system that has been receiving rave reviews. As work continues on Looking Glass, Su

SAN FRANCISCO—By open-sourcing its next-generation Linux desktop technology, Sun Microsystems Inc. is turning over some of its most innovative work to date to the open-source community, sources said.

Officials at the Santa Clara, Calif., systems maker said at JavaOne here that Sun plans to turn its next-generation Linux desktop, Project Looking Glass, over to the open-source community. The open sourcing of its Looking Glass technology represents a significant move by Sun, which has been under pressure by the open-source community to "open" some of its technology, specifically Java itself.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out Jason Brooks commentary, "Sun Openly Ambivalent."

However, Project Looking Glass has won Sun rave reviews as well as accolades within and outside the company for its creator, Hideya Kawahara, a senior staff engineer at the company.

/zimages/3/82403.jpgKawahara, a humble developer who in an interview with eWEEK simply referred to himself as "a geek," turned heads with his three-dimensional Linux desktop system with features that rival, and some even say surpass, those of next-generation desktops from Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to view a slideshow of Looking Glass.

"All rendering is done in 3-D space," Kawahara said. "And you can use all your legacy apps," he added, showing a Microsoft Word document on the screen during a demo for eWEEK shortly after the technology was unveiled last year.

The desktop, which features other components such as Suns Star Office, the Mozilla browser, RealPlayer support and other components, enables users to "fly around in 3-D and access applications and files in unique and interesting ways," said Peder Ulander, director of desktop solutions at Sun.

While Sun plans to open-source Looking Glass, it cant yet because the technology isnt finished. Kawahara said it will soon be completed and then turned over to open source. In the meantime, Sun did announce that it has open-sourced Java 3D, with Looking Glass to follow soon.

"I believed 3-D would be the next user interface," Kawahara said. "So I started a side project using my spare time."

/zimages/3/28571.gifLabs Director Jim Rapoza says 3-D interfaces are not for him. Click here to find out why.

Kawahara said he worked for more than a year using at least two hours a day—plus weekends—of his spare time to create Looking Glass. He said he took no vacations, worked through Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations and risked his relationship with his girlfriend to complete the project.

"I knew Microsoft and Apple were designing next-generation desktops," he said. "So I searched the Web about Linux, and I couldnt find anything that had this, so I figured this is what I could do to advance Linux."

Asked why he didnt try to take the technology out on his own and commercialize it, Kawahara said: "I am just a geek. I am interested in working with the community, and because this is Java it has very good productivity and is good for Sun."

With Suns move to open-source Looking Glass, Kawahara gets his wish of supporting the community.

Said Ulander, "This will change the way people look at their desktop, at online games and how you interact with your file system."

Editors Note: This story was updated to clarify that Sun has open-sourced Java 3D and will open-source Looking Glass when its completed.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.


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