Sun Microsystems this week began to give away its Solaris operating system, a UNIX derivative that runs on Sun Sparc and Intel x86 hardware. The OS is available free of charge to anyone that agrees to use it for non-commercial use. Typically, Sun charges $300 to $700 for Solaris. The free CD, which is available for the price of shipping and media (about $20) was originally offered to students and instructors but Sun decided to open it up to anyone.

"Lots of really interesting applications are developed in universities," said Brian Croll, director of server software products at Sun. "We don't want price to become a barrier to anyone who might want to play around with Solaris and maybe come up with some innovative development ideas."

Croll did, however, deny rumors that Sun was contemplating taking Solaris down the free source code route pioneered by Linux.

"We won't be giving source code away. There's a lot of intellectual property issues involved with that which we don't have much control over," he said. "We wouldn't want to infringe on the Linux space. We want to see Linux grow."

To order Solaris on CD, you must order it online: The company isn't accepting phone orders. This requires you to join the free Sun Developer Connection program. For details on this program and the free Solaris promotional offer, please visit the Sun Developer Web site