Red Hat is preparing to release a new 'Global Desktop' that over time will grow into an online desktop which integrates online services into a client desktop platform.
The platform will allow users to access online and local data in a unified way.
Red Hat has teamed up with Intel for the platform. Local PC manufacturers will build the actual systems.
The computers will target small businesses and governments in emerging economies, and the software will be made available on Intel's Classmate PC, a low cost notebook computer for students.
The software borrows from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, with about 95 per cent of the code overlapping.
The OLPC uses an adapted version of Red Hat's Fedora Linux. The Global Desktop won't share the OLPC's 'Sugar' user interface, but will come bundled with applications such as Firefox and OpenOffice.
The first version of the software is due out in June and will use a traditional user interface.
Subsequent updates will move to a model where traditional applications are integrated with online services, said Red Hat chief technology officer Brian Stevens.
"It will take online services and integrate them richly into a client desktop, and make them first class citizens with the traditional applications," Stevens said in a keynote at the Red Hat Summit in San Diego.
Integrating online services with local data is required for the next-generation desktop, he argued. Data will be pulled onto the client using service oriented architectures (SOAs).
"To the user the desktop metaphor is dead. We don't believe that recreating a Windows paradigm in an open source model will do anything to advance the productivity in the life of users," Stevens added.
"Users aren't sitting in isolation anymore. The Windows paradigm doesn't have anything to add to the experience of the user."
Stevens also unveiled a project that attempts to put a user's operating system on a USB stick. The software will execute as in a virtual compartment.
Red Hat chief executive Matt Szulik stressed in his opening keynote at the event that reinventing the desktop was crucial for the company to enter the desktop market. If it merely copied Windows, the project would fail, he argued.
"Trying to become the appendage on the existing incumbent would become a failing solution. The landscape is littered with people that tried to subscribe into becoming a component of that infrastructure and that infrastructure," Szulik said.
- Additional information was added to this story after Red Hat released more details. The original story incorrectly identified the software as the "Online Desktop". The update also added a launch date and information on its focus on developing markets.
Dark matter holds the Universe together - and gravitational waves could help identify it
Addison Lee is working on autonomous taxis for commuting and pleasure
IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
Hubble Space Telescope finds superflares from young red dwarfs could strip away planetary atmosphere
Younger stars are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when they're older