Sun sheds light on Mad Hatter

Sun Microsystems Inc. gave a preview of its upcoming open source-based desktop suite on Wednesday – dubbed Project Mad Hatter. The company is proffering the suite as an alternative to Microsoft Corp.’s Windows-based desktops, claiming it is more secure, less complex and less expensive.

Slated to be on the market in the fourth quarter of 2003, Mad Hatter will run on Sun Solaris, SuSe AG and RedHat Inc. Linux. Mad Hatter will also includes StarOffice – a Sun office suite based on, which reads and writes all Microsoft file formats, according to Sun.

The Mad Hatter suite will also employ the open source Web browser, Mozilla and will use GNU network object model (GNOME) – a Linux windows manager with a similar look and feel to Microsoft Windows, according to Gord Sissons, director of products and technology for Sun Microsystems Canada Inc. in Markham, Ont.

“We think the maturing of the [open source] software has now reached a point where it’s acceptable to end users. It really gives them a user experience very similar to what they’d encounter in a Microsoft desktop,” he said. “But we also think there is an opportunity to dramatically lower the cost of deploying and managing those desktops.”

According to Sun’s calculations, it currently costs companies about US$160 per user per month to deploy a functional Microsoft Windows desktop. With Mad Hatter, Sissons said this could reduce costs to approximately US$50 per user per month.

Most of the savings, he said, come from reduced costs of software licensing.

While the concept of Mad Hatter is similar to Lindows, an open source desktop manager based on Linux, Sissons said Sun is not threatened because it is targeting large enterprises with Mad Hatter.

The full details of Project Mad Hatter will be released Sun’s user conference, SunNetwork in San Francisco, Sept. 16 to 18. Sissons indicated that Sun will eventually be rolling out two editions of Mad Hatter – a standard edition for small businesses and home users, and an enterprise edition that will include network management tools for large enterprises.

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