Sun Microsystems announced the next version of its Solaris operating system this week, version 7.0 (an upgrade from version 2.6). Solaris 7.0, which will become available in November, includes a 64-bit kernel, sophisticated Java support, and a new Web-based installation program, marks the opening salvo in Sun's latest battle with Microsoft. The target? Windows NT 5.0, which was recently renamed Windows 2000. It's due in mid-1999.

"Unix is back! We're in vogue and we're cool," said Ed Zander, COO of Sun.

A 64-bit version of Solaris places Sun at least a year ahead of Microsoft, which is preparing a 64-bit version of NT (or whatever it's called when it comes out) that will be released in conjunction with Intel's Merced chip. Merced it due sometime in mid-2000. Three new versions of Solaris, East Access Server 2.0, Enterprise Server 1.0, and ISP Server 2.0 are aimed at departmental, data center, and ISP customers, respectively.

Sun says that Solaris, with only 12 million lines of code, is far less complex and less likely to "break" than Windows \[2000\], which now contains at least 35 million lines of code, most of it new. Solaris, on the other hand, has been upgraded over time from the same code base and it has a reputation for being reliable.

Solaris will cost about $450 for the desktop version (I'm trying to find out whether a free version for individual use will be available as it was for 2.6) and $700 for the server version. Other versions range from $600 to $6000.

For more information, please visit the Solaris 7 Web site