GNOME gets major commitments

Representatives of both Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems said Tuesday the companies will begin using the GNOME desktop environment as their default Unix desktop interface.

The surprise announcement from the two computer makers came during a GNOME press conference here at the fourth LinuxWorld Conference & Expo.

"Sun will adopt GNOME as the default desktop environment going forward for Solaris," said Marco Boerries, a vice president and general manager for desktops at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun. "We will also begin moving it into workstations and other devices."

"Today, HP is also pledging its support for the GNOME environment, and will offer GNOME as the default [interface] for HP-UX," said Martin Fink, R&D lab manager for Unix systems enablement at HP, which is also based in Palo Alto.

GNOME, a free software project comprised of over 500 developers, has built a free desktop environment that runs on both Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. Until now, industry observers have criticized Linux's interface for being too complicated for most desktop computer users.

"[GNOME] unifies the existing Unix world," said Boerries. "It's great for developers and end users, and we need a user environment that's easy to use, competitive, and gives us the foundation for more than just another desktop environment."

"By having GNOME based on open source standards, every contributor, every corporation that gets involved, will know that no other company is out there trying to eat them up," said Boerries.

Two primary goals were announced at Tuesday's press conference. One is the creation of the GNOME Foundation, to be governed by a board of directors elected by volunteer developers who contribute to GNOME.

The second goal is to establish an industry-wide open user environment. Five major GNOME initiatives intended to accomplish this goal were announced:

  1. Establish the GNOME user environment as the unifying desktop for the Linux and Unix communities.

  2. Integrate technologies into GNOME. is the open source project through which Sun Microsystems is releasing the technology for the popular StarOffice productivity suite. Sun will also begin specifying XML office formats and publishing them on the OpenOffice site, according to Boerries. "What good is an operating system without office productivity applications?" he asked.

  3. Integrate Mozilla browser technology into GNOME. Mozilla is the free, open source version of Netscape.

  4. Join together industry-leading companies to improve GNOME's reliability, quality, and accessibility. Contributions will include personal finance management software from Gnumatic and improved file management software, called Nautilus, from Eazel.

  5. Make the GNOME framework the standard environment for next-generation Internet devices like Internet appliances and thin clients.

Initial members of the GNOME Advisory Board include Compaq (based in Houston), Eazel (Mountain View, Calif.), Gnumatic (Austin, Texas), Hewlett-Packard, IBM (Armonk, N.Y.), Object Management Group (Needham, Mass.), Red Hat (Durham, N.C.), and Sun Microsystems.

Copyright 2000 InfoWorld Media Group, Inc.

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