What's So Java About Sun's Linux Desktop?
Subject:   Where's the Java?
Date:   2004-10-15 23:03:33
From:   CraigBuchek

I found this article somewhat lacking. I don't feel that it told me what's so Java about JDS, but made excuses for Sun instead. I also feel that the author is mis-interpreting the community's reaction.

I think the biggest excuse-making is regarding the Java name. The article explains that to understand the branding, you have to know a lot about the product, all of Sun's other products, and Sun's stategy. Which is the exact opposite of what branding is all about. A brand is supposed to tell me something about a product without having to do any research. To most of us, the Java brand indicates association with the Java programming language and VM. JDS has a lot of "Linux-ness", but we don't see much more Java here than most other OSes. That's what the community is complaining about -- that JDS doesn't meet our expectations of the "Java-ness" implied by the name. And this article hasn't convinced us otherwise.

For Sun to put Java in front of every product name doesn't make sense -- unless they're planning on spinning off the software division into a separate company (something a few folks have surmised.) They already put Sun in front of every name. It's a lot like when Microsoft put the .NET tag in front of everything. It made it difficult to understand what .NET meant. A whole bunch of things got lumped together -- Passport, web services, the VM, and the framework. They were even going to tag Windows Server 2003 with the .NET brand, and perhaps Office. Fortunately, the brand only "stuck" to the VM and the associated framework. In the interim, the security problems with Passport made all the other pieces look bad by association.

The rest of the article tries to explain Sun's role as a distribution vendor. It tries to make excuses for including commercial software and not being cutting edge. So? That's what we expect from enterprise Linux distros. There isn't much new territory here. Red Hat and SuSE and many others have been doing this for years. Most of us are not only familiar with these trade-offs, but comfortable with them. We know that if GNU/Linux is to be taken seriously by corporations, companies will need to build on the Open Source core. (At least for the time being -- in the end Debian will probably do to other Linux's what Linux is doing to other OSes. But vendors will still be needed to provide support and indemnity.)

In the end, Sun took an existing SuSE Linux enterprise distribtuion, added a few things, and put the Java brand name on it. I hope it does well. If Sun does a good job of selling it to corporations and supporting it, then we'll all have benefited. But to think that this is something special is a mistake.