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Sun to Sell Desktops With Linux System

September 18, 2002|JOSEPH MENN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — A month after Sun Microsystems Inc. reversed course and said it would do more to promote the free Linux operating system, the big computer maker plans to announce today that it intends to sell a line of desktop machines running Linux and other open-source programs.

The move could give a boost to Linux in the area it's weakest: the personal computer. Big companies have been increasingly turning to Linux to run servers that control computer networks or single functions, but few individuals have been willing to assemble a complete set of PC software instead of using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system, word-processing software and other applications.

Sun plans to do the assembling itself and offer the hardware, software and support to some kinds of companies, executives said Tuesday. Chief Executive Scott McNealy will introduce the products at a San Francisco convention.

"We're creating a user experience that will feel very similar to what they're used to," said Tony Siress, Sun senior director of desktop solutions.

Sun said in August that it would start shipping Linux servers that use Intel Corp. processors instead of its own more expensive chips. It hinted that it would soon do more with desktop software.

Microsoft has a monopoly on desktop operating systems, and its smaller productivity programs such as Word and Excel are even more profitable. Linux enthusiasts have cobbled together free desktop projects but hoped that a big technology firm such as Sun--a Microsoft foe--would get more involved.

Today's news still will disappoint some who have been rooting for a full desktop software suite. Sun said the project launching next year would target specialized workers, such as those in call centers or retail establishments who do the same few tasks over and over.

Siress declined to say how much the system would cost per desk or how many desktops would make such a volume purchase economical. The machines will use Intel chips and be cheaper than those outfitted with Microsoft software.

Also Tuesday, top Linux seller Red Hat Inc. reported that its quarterly loss narrowed to $1.7 million, or 1 cent a share, from $4.6 million, or 3 cents, in the previous quarter.

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