Wal-Mart and Sun share Linux desktop lust

Java what?

Wal-Mart has added to an already extensive lineup of Linux operating systems by signing on to sell Sun Microsystems' Java Desktop System.

At present, the new Sun Java OS gear is a bit hard to find. Wal-Mart has tucked the kit away on its Microtel PCs page. With SuSE, Lindows, Lycoris and Sun Java OS computers now all available, Wal-Mart is the clear leader in the Linux desktop market. It's a minor claim to fame at present but could pay off in the long run should more consumers take a risk on the open source operating system.

Some tech journalists have a nasty habit of performing searches before the vendors are ready, and we suspect that's what happened in the case of the Sun Java OS. Neither Sun nor Wal-Mart would let a deal between the two companies pass without a press release or some better billing on the Wal-Mart Web site. So expect some marketing material in the near future.

Sun appears to have convinced Wal-Mart to go along with the Java naming scheme. Sun likes to call its package of StarOffice, GAIM, Mozilla, Evolution and SuSE the Java Desktop System. And Wal-Mart has obliged Sun by creating a new OS category - the "Java operating system" - instead of placing the OS with the herd in the Linux operating system category.

The Microtel boxes running the Sun OS range in price from $289 up to $698 for a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 PC.

In the past, Sun executives have speculated that other retailers such as Office Depot or Best Buy might start selling PCs with the Java Desktop System as well.

Sun is clearly looking to push Microsoft off the desktop where possible in the hopes that this may clear a path for more lucrative server sales. Sun sells the Java Desktop System for $50 per employee to large companies.

For its part, Wal-Mart is trying to crack the white box market by selling cheap systems and offering kit with Linux or without an operating system. Large OEMs with strong relationships to Microsoft have appeared unwilling to make similar moves. Funny that. ®