I downloaded and booted the LiveCD version of OpenSolaris 2009.6, more for consistency than anything else I suppose. Europa booted into the OpenSolaris graphical desktop at 1024 by 768, which is too low for the card and the monitor. When I changed the resolution to 1280 x 1024, the screen resized fine but the upper and lower Gnome panels didn't move to fit the new screen size (check screen capture left). Which brings up another nit. Normally on a Gnome desktop hitting PrintScreen will bring up the screenshot save applet. This desktop doesn't do that. Fortunately you can bring it up via the main menu (Applications | Graphics | Save Screenshot). Such are the minor nits to be found after five minutes of very casual use. Oh well.
Is this version fit to challenge Linux? That depends on who you are. If you're a Windows-Hater/Linux-Lover then it won't satisfy you. Not because if any specific inferiority of the system, but simply because ItsNotLinux(tm). At the other extreme, if you're a RealUnix(tm) user, then this release of OpenSolaris should prove intriguing, at least enough to download the ISO and give it a spin.
OpenSolaris is underpinned by RealUnix(tm), not the ersatz implementation of Linux. Because of that underpinning it's a lot closer to Mac OS X in spirit with regards to its Unix lineage (as are all the BSDs for that matter). Even if the userspace environment has been 'polluted' by the GNU tool chain, at least the OpenSolaris kernel is TrueUnix(tm).
I do like the Nimbus-themed controls and window border. I also like how the desktop behaves, especially with regards to dialog boxes and the placement of various buttons. Other nice little touches are the ability to once again open a terminal from the desktop menu, the ability to change the resolution directly from the same desktop menu, and the general fit-and-finish of the graphical desktop (nits notwithstanding). My biggest complaint is the lack of Google's Chrome. Instead we have Firefox 3.1b3, which I'm not too crazy about. I have no clue how the Solaris repository system works so I don't know if it's possible to upgrade to the final release.
Since OpenSolaris is TrueUnix(tm) and not Linux, it can't read europa's existing Linux filesystems from the LiveCD. So any idea of installing and importing existing Linux filesystems is is a non-starter. Again, my personal ignorance of OpenSolaris hinders me from knowing if it will allow for a dual-boot setup with Windows (XP/Vista/Win7). So even if I wanted to just wipe the existing Linux installation and give it to OpenSolaris, I have no desire to risk trashing Windows on europa.
Considered on its own merits this version of OpenSolaris is enticing enough to play around with, if you have gobs of free time to invest. Unfortunately I don't, and my current strong dislike of most contemporary Linux distributions isn't strong enough to motivate me to play around with it either.
As good as it might be, perhaps the critics are right; perhaps it is too little, too late.
Well I'll be damned. It's shipping with Java 6 on the LiveCD. In fact it's shipping with update 13. Considering that update 14 was just released, that's pretty cutting edge. And about time, since it's Sun (a.k.a. Oracle (gag)) that manages development of both. Perhaps OpenSolaris could be considered as a premier Java development platform, especially if Java runs better on OpenSolaris than it does on Linux (on the exact same hardware platform).