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Sun Microsystems has turned "good cop" in its campaign against Hewlett Packard's UX by offering the prospect of porting Solaris to Intel's dreaded Itanic.

Sun chief executive Scott McNealy has invited HP to work with Sun, combine R&D and "converge" the company's UX operating system with Sun's Solaris 10 in an open letter written to HP CEO Mark Hurd and published Wednesday.

McNealy's letter was apparently timed to appear on the eve of a joint HP and Intel web cast that is expected to see HP announce new Unix servers running Intel's Madison processor instead of the delayed Montecito version of Itanium.

The proposal seems targeted at HP's ProLiant customers.

In an offer HP will probably find easy to refuse, McNealy wrote: "By combining our resources and investments, HP's customer and developer communities would gain the benefit of the fastest growing operating system in the marketplace: improved economics, rapid innovation, and a rich future roadmap otherwise unavailable to your ProLiant user base."

McNealy has been one of Itanium's staunchest critics, but any "convergence" could actually necessitate that he and his company execute a strategic 180 by porting Solaris to Intel's troubled chip set since UX has been ported to Itanium.

Crazy, but possible?

Solaris marketing director Chris Ratcliffe told The Register that "yes", it is possible. Speaking in the wake of McNealy's letter, Ratcliffe said Sun would be "happy" to discuss porting Solaris to Itanic. Radcliffe noted a port of Solaris 10 for IBM's PowerPC architecture is in the works as a result of Sun's Open Solaris program.

Marketing spin aside, what would a converged Solaris and UX look like? Very unlike UX, apparently, with Solaris leading in areas like predictive self healing and binary and source compatibility, according to Ratcliffe.

"There may be areas we aren't familiar with...or in specific markets and applications," he said, conceding some ground to UX.

Of course, Sun is eyeing up HP's UX customers for Solaris, as it has been doing ever since it launched the HP Away program that also targets Tru64 users. This latest offer comes as IDC revealed Sun's Solaris on Unix business dropped in 2005 while Unix as a whole suffered at the hands of Windows.

Ratcliffe denied Sun is using the offer as a way to scoop up additional Solaris customers and reverse the decline. Instead, he said Solaris and the Unix business is on the cusp of revival as customers move from evaluating Solaris 10 to deployment.

Sun claims 4.2m registered licenses of Solaris 10 with two thirds on x86 and x64. "It takes six to 12 months to see real adoption of the operating system," Ratcliffe said. ®

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