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Orion toolkit due at SunNetwork Conference

When Sun Microsystems unveils the details of a re-christened Project Orion at its SunNetwork conference in San Francisco this week, developers can expect to hear some serious sweet talk from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems company. Much of Sun's hopes for a Sun developer revival ride on the offering.

Along with the details of its long-awaited plan for simplifying the process of purchasing, deploying and updating its business software, Sun is expected to announce a toolkit specifically designed for developers who are building apps that work with the Orion package.

Dubbed Orion Developer, the new toolkit will allow programmers to easily write Java applications that run on the entire suite of Orion software. It will include the SunONE Studio Java development tool and the Orion software stack, according to Sun representatives, as well as access to developer resources such as a knowledge base, sample code and documentation.

The Orion software stack will include the SunONE application server, portal, directory and security software, said company reps.

Sun has been playing catch-up in the Java developer tools market, despite the fact that it created the Java language. But the company has recently moved more aggressively into that space. Along with Orion Developer, which targets the J2EE developer, Sun is also building a simpler Java dev tool called Rave, which targets coders who may be wrestling with J2EE.

Providing appealing dev tools is a venerable strategy used by platform vendors to encourage development for their products. Companies such as Microsoft, BEA and Oracle, for example, have embraced it.

During his keynote address at last week's OracleWorld conference, Sun CEO Scott McNealy was short on numbers, but assured his audience that the new Orion bundle would be priced aggressively.

"We would never call it 'scorched earth' [pricing] because that might be illegal," McNealy said, "but we're going to warm the earth about how we price that infrastructure software on top of our Sparc and x86 hardware."

Sun said in February that it would re-package all of its server software products under a single brand name, and that it would initiate a program of regular, quarterly updates. Sun seems to be betting that those simpler pricing schemes and predictable release cycles will keep its customers happy.

The company is also expected to announce pricing for its Mad Hatter initiative at this week's conference. Mad Hatter is the code name for Sun's plan to sell desktop computers running Linux and a range of open-source software applications.

Speaking to a packed house at the OracleWorld conference, McNealy tossed a few barbs at computer maker Dell Inc., which competes with Sun in the market for Intel-based servers running Linux and Windows. Customers buying Sun's software on its own x86 servers will get a better deal, he said, than those buying from Dell.

"We're not going to [match the pricing of] the Dell systems," McNealy said. "We'll sell [our software] on the Dell servers -- it'll just be a little more expensive. So you have a choice between heaven and Dell."


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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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