Sun Microsystems is uprooting employees from permanent desks and plans in a year to have about half the workforce floating around and between offices, as virtual desktops follow them on the computer maker’s network.

What began as a program to deal with “commute hell” in the San Francisco Bay Area during the days when Sun famously said it was the “dot in dot-com”, has morphed into a consolidation drive as Sun abandons real estate, cuts jobs and becomes, according to wry executives, the “O in old economy.”

Sun says it will save $150 million annually, and the program is essentially an advertisement for the company’s marketing pitch that business runs better on a network of big computers than smaller boxes powered by software from rival Microsoft Corp.