Sun Microsystems has developed a technology which it claims allows any application to run on any operating system.
The software runs on a remote server, but users see the same window that they would normally use to run local applications.
Sun showed off the 'Chameleon' technology at Sun Labs Day, an open house for its research arm in Mountain View, California.
In a demonstration, the company showed applications running on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows XP side by side on a single system.
Each application maintains the exact look and feel as on the original operating system. The user gains access to an application by clicking on a link. Special software on the client handles authentication and the connection to the server.
Existing systems that deliver software through a network often use a browser to deliver the application or present the user with an entire desktop inside a browser.
According to Sun, its technology is different from existing offerings in that it works independently of the programming language used for the original application. It runs on any platform, provided it is equipped with the Java-based client software.
"We turn the desktop into a browsing environment," Arshan Poursohi, the project's main developer told vnunet.com. "We don't want the user to know if an application is running locally or remotely."
Project Chameleon clears the way for applications to be delivered in an on-demand fashion through an internet service provider or within enterprises.
This would enable consumers to subscribe to a text editor or photo editing software through their service providers instead of having to install and maintain the applications themselves.
However, as with any hosted application, applications delivered through the Chameleon technology suffer from network latency.
This causes a time delay between a user's command and the actual response on the screen. When a window is dragged to a new position, for instance, it can be a short while before it actually moves on the screen.
Sun will introduce the software within the next six months to its line of Sun Ray thin clients, according to Poursohi.
The company is talking to ISPs and application service providers in the enterprise market about licensing Chameleon.
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