Unix vendors adopt Gnome desktop

Desktop Linux gained momentum on the first day of LinuxWorld in San Jose, as vendors including Red Hat Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Compaq Computer Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and VA Linux Systems Inc. joined to form the Gnome Foundation.

As a result, the Gnome desktop environment will be enriched with Sun's StarOffice productivity suite, Eazel Inc.'s Nautilus file manager and the Mozilla Web browser.

Gnome, an open-source desktop environment for Linux, will be integrated with two other open-source projects: the Mozilla browser (the open-source version of Netscape Navigator) and Sun's StarOffice productivity suite, which was recently released under the General Public License. This will add to the Gnome desktop environment a browser and a set of productivity tools with support for Microsoft Office file formats. Software developers will be able to make use of Mozilla and StarOffice components in their own applications thanks to Gnome's Bonobo component technology, which is based on the Common Object Request Broker Architecture.

Further narrowing the gap with Microsoft Windows, Helix Code Inc., the company founded by Gnome project leader Miguel de Icaza, is delivering a Microsoft Outlook-like e-mail and contact manager called Evolution, while Eazel Inc. will ship Nautilus, a file manager with integrated browsing similar to the Windows Explorer.

"Linux is becoming ready for more and more workloads," said Dan Frye, director of IBM's Linux Technology Center. "This announcement is about Linux becoming ready for desktop workloads."

Linux is also literally changing the face of Unix, with two major Unix vendors agreeing to adopt Gnome as the default desktop environment. HP and Sun said Gnome will be the default user interface for HP/UX and Solaris, respectively, starting in the first half of next year. It will replace the Common Desktop Environment, the current standard desktop for Unix.

IBM, which is also a member of the Gnome Foundation, said it had no plans to port the environment to AIX (but has recently announced that Linux binaries will run on the upcoming AIX 5L, formerly named Monterey).

The Gnome project was founded three years ago, as a volunteer-driven effort to deliver a graphical desktop environment for Linux. Most Linux distributions currently offer users a choice of Gnome or KDE. Applications written for KDE will generally run under Gnome and vice versa, but software developers must make a choice between supporting Gnome's or KDE's libraries when writing their applications.

Separately at LinuxWorld, developers demonstrated KDE 2.0, expected to be released in September. Red Hat founder and Chairman Bob Young said Durham, N.C.-based Red Hat would still offer customers the choice of KDE and Gnome, despite the company's longstanding involvement in Gnome. "Competition is a good thing, this is actually a strength of the [open source] model,'' said Young.

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