January 22, 2003 6:50 PM PST

Sun, Ximian back Linux desktop

NEW YORK--Sun Microsystems and start-up Ximian have jointly developed software that lets Ximian's Evolution software connect to Sun's e-mail and calendar server software, the companies announced Wednesday.

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The program lets Linux or Solaris computers running Ximian's Evolution program--a match with Microsoft's Outlook in terms of features--connect to the Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) server software for handling e-mail, online calendars and contact lists. Ximian also sells a connector product that lets Evolution connect to Microsoft's Exchange server software, which competes with the Sun ONE products.

Ximian's connector software gets customers to ask themselves whether they control their own data, such as e-mail messages, or whether Microsoft does since its products are required to get access to the data, said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive vice president of software. "You need Ximian to get access to your own e-mail, which really begs the question, 'Why don't you get access to your own information?'"

Using standards-based software ensures that such information can't be so easily locked up, Sun argues.

The Ximian collaboration dovetails with Sun's effort to eat into Microsoft's dominant position in desktop computers. Also Wednesday at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, Sun demonstrated early versions of its "Mad Hatter" product, a Linux-based PCs for business customers who don't need general-purpose PCs.

A beta version of Mad Hatter is due this spring, with general availability of the software in early summer, said Curtis Sasaki, head of Sun's desktop Linux work.

Sun and Ximian aren't the only ones angling to wrest away Microsoft customers. Mitch Kapor, founder of office software maker Lotus, is working on an Outlook clone. And on Tuesday, Linux and Unix seller SCO Group released updated version of its e-mail server software.

By taking actions such as releasing the source code for its StarOffice software, a Microsoft Office competitor, Sun has been trying to curry favor with the open-source community, a vast, loosely organized group of programmers who collaboratively create their own software. The open-source movement frequently is a foil to Microsoft and thus is a valuable collection of allies for Sun.

On Wednesday, Sun released more open-source software components of its Grid Engine software, which lets calculations be shared across a network of computers. Sun opened the code for its grid "portlet" software, part of the software used to manage the collection of computers running the grid calculations.

Sun also released source code for grid software called the Jobs Application Manager, experimental software that lets programmers use Sun's Jini software to help separate grids discover each other over a network and join forces.

 

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