Red Hat Preps 'Sugar' Client OS For Web Services Era

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At its annual partner summit in San Diego, Red Hat's top executives and noted desktop developer Havoc Pennington showed off an early prototype of the "Sugar" Web services-based interface, which is slated be built into the open-source Fedora 8 code or Fedora 9 code in several years.

During his opening keynote last week, Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik said Sugar will run on mobile devices, offer a new usability model for groups of people connected via the Internet, and deeply embed real-time messaging, virtual identity and virtual spaces capabilities.

The Sugar client represents a major shift away from traditional PC GUIs and desktop paradigms in favor of a more versatile, collaborative, Web-only based client -- and with no drivers required.

It's time for the open-source and Linux communities to lead rather than follow on the client side, Pennington said.

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He drilled down on planned new features such as the "Big Board" panel interface, a new desktop paradigm that emphasizes tight integration of Web services such as Flickr, as well as instant-messaging and collaboration services that will rely heavily on the company's "Mugshot" social networking technology as the "glue server."

For example, Red Hat is developing the online client to scale for multiple users on different networks based on a clustered server infrastructure that supports Mugshot.

One solution provider who saw the Sugar prototype agreed that Linux vendors should forget about developing Windows clones and concentrate on new paradigms.

"Linux has to improve the experience," said Francesco Crippa, solutions architect at Byte-Code Technology Solutions, based in Milan, Italy. "It's like Windows and Macintosh at the moment, but it has to go beyond."

Szulik said Sugar is more vision than product, but the Raleigh, N.C.-based Linux company wanted to tip its hat as customers and partners begin evaluating Vista and other desktops that tightly integrate Web services.

"You should not expect we'll give you a finished product in 15 minutes around the Sugar desktop and Sugar client," he said. "Customers are at an interesting stage to make decisions about what their next-generation client strategies will look like. "