Sun is to bundle Eazel's easy-to-use Linux front end, Nautilus, with its own Unix variant, Solaris.
The plan, announced today, is part of a joint development programme under which the two companies will ensure Nautilus works with Solaris, supports a broad range of different languages and contains tools to help users with disabilities.
Eazel's part of the agreement is to commit itself to using Sun's StarOffice as the default document viewing tool in Nautilus. Though perhaps this isn't too surprising ever since StarOffice creator Marco Boerries told us his suite will form the basis for GnomeOffice (see StarOffice creator on the GNOME pact).
Sun's interest in Nautilus lies in is Network User Environment, which is essentially what we'd have called a Webtop had it been around three or four years ago. It takes the browser-meets-file manager idea from the likes of KDE, Gnome and Windows 98, and runs with it, bundling in a series of Net-centric tools and features to provide a single point of access for all resources, whether remote or local.
Sun has long been keen on this kind of browser/GUI integration - though it didn't like it too much when Microsoft was running around hooking Internet Explorer tightly into Windows - since it's a great example of Sun's vision of the network as the computer. It's also a key part of its plan to wrest dominance of the corporate desktop away from Windows and Microsoft Office.
Sun will attempt to tempt corporate users away from said with a mix of powerful object-oriented desktop environment (Gnome), network-centric user interface (Nautilus) and integrated productivity suite (Star/GnomeOffice). Sun has already said that it will support Gnome 2.0 on Solaris when the desktop environment ships - around the middle of next year - so today's announcement simply puts the finishing touch to that plan.
There's certainly some value in attempting to create a standard, open source Unix GUI, though whether other Unix providers will follow Sun remains to be seen. Where this leaves Motif is also unclear, but it's a sign of how mature Sun sees the Nautilus-Gnome GUI, that the company is willing to replace the one with the other - or at least offer the two together. ®