Sun has recently released the "Java Desktop", a Gnome-based Linux/Solaris presentation manager. Can it compete with Windows? For me the first question is why not just install Gnome for free instead of paying $100 for the Java desktop. An even better question is why Gnome? Sun has some historical tie to the Gnome libraries, but the fact is that the rest of the Linux world is moving to KDE so the Java Desktop is kind of risking the obsolete-at-birth (OAB?) syndrome. The benefits of the distro are that it has built-in Java and OpenOffice, but those are both free and downloadable anyway too. Where's the beef?
The downside, on the other hand, is huge. Sun has definitely not perfected the complex Linux installation process so the JD is substantially harder to install than industry-standard Red Hat. In fact, from what I have heard unless you are a professional Linux admin or serious power user you should forget even trying to install it. This alone means that competing with Red Hat successfully is unlikely and Windows has nothing to worry about. It seems that Sun focused mostly on cosmetic add-ons rather than really trying to invent a new desktop. Consequently the JD is weak and irritating in a lot of different areas. For example, it has no menu editor. Have fun editing those config files. I think it is totally backwards and braindead for Sun to expect users to edit text files so that they can have a GUI. It's like anti-GUI. Is it ironic, or contradictory or oxymoronish or just plain moronic. I don't know. This is what happens when unix weenies try to draw pretty pictures.
The old Macintosh/Xerox windows idea was lame from the beginning as far as I was concerned. I always liked frame-based interfaces. In short the world could use a better desktop and we are all waiting for the next evolution of the operating system interface. Unfortunately the Java Desktop is not it.