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Sun to upgrade Linux desktop software

The second version of Java Desktop System will debut on Tuesday with extra features to lure developers. It's the latest part of Sun's effort to offset its server sales slump.

Sun Microsystems plans to release on Tuesday the second version of its Java Desktop System, the server maker's version of Linux for desktop computers, augmenting the software with new management and programming tools.

The new version reproduces some features of Microsoft Windows, including an automated software update service and a utility that lets a manager control a system remotely, according to sources familiar with the product. It also will come with the first version of Sun's Configuration Manager, which lets an administrator control the privileges and settings of different groups of desktop users.

And as part of Sun's effort to entice programmers to its new software, the new JDS software will include the Java Studio and NetBeans developer tools.

Sun declined to comment for this story.

The Java Desktop System is one of several company efforts to expand into new territory to offset its declining server sales. Sun plans to announce the software at its Network Computing 04Q2 event in Shanghai, China.

Sun's JDS is based on Linux. However, the company plans to release a version based on its Solaris operating system in mid-2004, John Loiacono, executive vice president of Sun's software group, said in a recent interview.

And Sun still hopes its Java software will be the programming foundation of choice, spanning Windows, Linux and Solaris. Also on Tuesday, Sun is expected to announce a new programming tool collection for all those operating systems so that developers can write Java software for any type of desktop computer, sources said.

Companies purchase JDS by paying $100 per year for each employee in the company--regardless of how many actually use the software. The price drops to $50 per employee per year if a company also buys Sun's Java Enterprise System, a collection of server software; a half-price JDS promotion was planned through Wednesday but has been extended to the end of 2004, sources said.

Desktop Linux is becoming a more serious threat to Microsoft's Windows, which today ships on more than 90 percent of personal computers sold. Sun gave desktop Linux a major boost by making its Microsoft Office competitor, StarOffice, into an open-source project called OpenOffice.

Sun isn't the only one pushing desktop Linux. SuSE Linux, now owned by Novell, has been pushing the idea for years. Sun's product is based on SuSE's version, and No. 2 PC seller Hewlett-Packard signed a deal that lets it preinstall SuSE Linux on desktop machines. More recently, IBM has begun warming to desktop Linux; top Linux seller Red Hat has

Sun is expected to announce JDS support from software partners such as Borland Software, CodeWeavers, Linuxant, Tarantella and TransGaming Technologies.