Sun Microsystems has unveiled its Solaris 8 operating system, which the company said would ship in early March. Sun officials touted the forthcoming OS release as historical, with President and COO Ed Zander proclaiming, "there is no Unix marketplace anymore. It's a Solaris marketplace," and insisting, "this is the platform to bet your future company on." Sun announced that it won't charge licensing fees for Solaris 8, and that it will offer free access to Solaris source and end-user binary code. While the software and co-packaged code will be free, Sun is charging a media fee of around £45 that covers receiving the OS in 10 languages and a companion CD. "Good operating systems are a lot like good wine," Zander said. "New is not necessarily good. ... The longer you've been testing it, the longer you've been applying it in applications, the better it gets." He took a passing swipe at Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming release of Windows 2000, referring obliquely to another operating system that will be out soon and asserting that it is based on technology that is several years old. Internet-based companies instead need up-to-date technology in operating systems that can handle "monumental" scale, said Anil Gadre, VP and general manager of Solaris software. The Solaris announcement, he said, opens a year of what will be "dot-com mania" for Sun, which plans announcements related to its Ultra Sparc chip line, storage and software. "We're going to make history here," he said. "We're going to change how you think about operating systems." Some of the Solaris 8 features that Sun executives have promoted include clustering for up to four 64-processor systems at the initial launch and up to eight later this year – running on Sparc and Intel processors, and a network cache accelerator that boosts improvements for serving Web pages. It will also include Java HotSpot technology to enable speedy Java 2 platform performance. The Solaris 8 further will ship with a range of packaged software applications, including an office productivity suite, Oracle8i database, Oracle Migration Workbench and four iPlanet offerings. Analysts said the Solaris 8 will be popular with Internet-based customers seeking a heavy-duty operating system. But Sun is exaggerating when it predicts the demise of most other systems, they said. "If you look at the overall Internet, there is a mix of operating systems," said Dan Kuznetsky, director of operating environment research for International Data Corp. (IDC). Linux, Windows and other Unix operating systems will continue to be sold by a variety of companies and used for a variety of purposes, he said. Sun is hoping to capture IBM Corp. customers by portraying Solaris as the only viable Unix OS, said Anne Thomas Manes, senior analyst for Patricia Seybold Group. "Of course, Sun is trying to slice IBM customers away, saying, 'If you want to do e-commerce, you have to do it on Solaris.'" Zander's swipe at Windows 2000 was classic Sun hyperbole, Thomas said: "The Windows market is huge," she said. "But Sun is not capable of putting out a press release without taking a jab at Microsoft."