Hot on the heels of JavaFX, taking on the likes of Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flash, Sun looks set to formally unveil its plans for Project Indiana this week and attack the Linux developer heartlands. Solaris has long been known as the really secure Unix variant that sucks when it comes to user friendliness.

Linux itself has long since got over the problems of difficult installation routines, you only have to look in the direction of Ubuntu on the desktop for proof of that. Sun has been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to address the user experience issue up until now. Things changed when Ian Murdock joined the company this year, exposing the cracks in the Solaris structure. Although it was Netscape pioneer Marc Andresson who made that ‘better Linux than Linux’ comment, Murdock seems to have taken it to heart and with Project Indiana looks set to try and make good on the promise.

Think of Project Indiana as being a GPLv3 licensed OpenSolaris distro, merging the best bits from Solaris and various Linux distros into a single user friendly Unix powerhouse. Maybe. Anything that lowers the barrier of entry into the Solaris world is good for Sun, or so they hope. That might not be the case though, because security when faced with vast corporate loading is what has sold Solaris to date. Trying to move the pitch from heavy duty secure workhorse to easy to install OS could alienate rather than attract potential users.

The Solaris kernel isn’t going anywhere, as far as I can tell, so perhaps the fears of losing focus are misplaced. But Sun is certainly keen to grow what it refers to the OpenSolaris ecosystem and ultimately the Solaris market share. According to OpenSolaris Governing Board Member Glynn Foster Project Indiana will see “a 6 monthly time based release schedule will focus energies in producing a single CD install, and putting OpenSolaris on a path to being a distribution as well as a source base… with a focus on the user experience.”

I think that comparing Solaris and Linux is a case of confusing apples for oranges, and Sun should stick with the fruit it knows best. After all, if Solaris isn’t broken why try to fix it?

Perhaps Sun deliberately make Solaris a bit tricky to use so they can keep selling IT support contracts for it. I wouldn't blame them, seeing as the software itself is free now. As to whether Solaris is actually unfriendly to the user I couldn't comment much, having not used it since my University days (and that was a nicely pre - configured system). I know that some people say the main BSD distributions tend to be harder to use than Linux. I can't agree with that based on experience. Thing is, once you've seen how packages work on netBSD (for example) it's "plain sailing" from then onward :) . With Linux there are at least three different package managers just among the major distributions.