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Sun unveils radical re-think of software strategy

Sun Microsystems officially launched an oft-discussed radical revamp of its software strategy during its SunNetwork conference in San Francisco yesterday. Sun CEO Scott McNealy discussed the plan, which includes a streamlined product release schedule as well as a new licensing plan, during his keynote address.

Observers said struggling Sun hopes the effort can boost sales by satisfying the requirements of cost-conscious CIOs.

The new integrated desktop, server and developer packages were unveiled under a new Sun Java System banner. Sun officials claimed that the new product line brings 225 separate products into the six Java System bundles, which include Sun Java Enterprise System (code-named "Project Orion"), the Sun Java Desktop System (code-named "Mad Hatter"), Java Studio (its developer toolset), the Sun Java Mobility System, the Sun Java Card System, and Sun N1 for dynamic and utility computing.

The Java Enterprise System package combines Sun's entire network services architecture, including the SunONE Directory, Application Server and a suite of Java 2 Enterprise Edition applications that includes Identification/Access Server, Portal Server, E-mail/Messaging Server, Calendar Server, Instant Messaging, Collaboration Server and the Solaris operating system.

The Sun Java Desktop System runs on the open-source Linux operating system and combines several client applications, including the new StarOffice 7, the Mozilla open-source browser, a full-featured e-mail and collaboration suite, RealNetworks' RealONE player and Macromedia Flash.

Sun Java Studio Enterprise is a set of developer tools for the Sun Java Enterprise System. It includes an IDE, connector builders, plug-ins and the full Sun Java Enterprise System runtime. Sun folded its SunONE Studio tools into this package, and is phasing out the SunONE name.

The initial release of the Java Enterprise System will be available in November for Solaris systems, Sun officials said, and will be priced at $100 per employee per year. That price includes training, 60 hours a week of tech support, professional services to help customers switch to the Sun system, and an "infinite right to use in Internet applications," according to Sun reps. A Linux version of Java Enterprise will be available early next year, officials said.

The Java Desktop System is priced at $100 per desktop, or $50 per employee per year. In addition, the Studio product is priced at $5 per employee if bought with the Java Enterprise System, or $1,895 if purchased separately.

"The world has to be getting a little disappointed in our industry," McNealy said. "We are overcharging our industry by an order of magnitude. That cost ... is going to come out of our industry in the next five to 10 years."

Sun also unveiled the N1 operator's platform, which officials said is designed to provide virtualization and provisioning services for storage, servers, blade servers and, now, applications with the introduction of N1 CenterRun 4.0, which provides one-touch deployment of new shared services.

Sun officials would not disclose pricing or shipping schedules for the Sun Java Mobility System. The system is designed to provide an integrated platform for the delivery of services to the more than 200 million Java-enabled mobile devices on the market today, including phones, PDAs and other portable devices, as well as the Sun Java Card System, a platform for providing personal authentication services for secure e-commerce and service delivery Java Cards.

Perhaps most intriguing is Sun's plan to update its newly integrated product line on a quarterly basis from now on. "We're totally predictable now," Joe Keller, the firm's VP of marketing, told eADT. "It's 90 days until our next announcement."

Although McNealy set a generally serious tone during his presentation -- he even wore a jacket (though no tie) and, he pointed out, socks -- the presentation wasn't without a few vintage McNealy antics. At one point, he produced a red-white-and-blue picket sign emblazoned with the slogan "Recall Cost & Complexity," a play on California's headline-grabbing gubernatorial recall election that was not lost on the crowd. "We are going to recall cost and complexity," McNealy chanted to an appreciative audience. "We think cost and complexity is driving everybody absolutely crazy!"

During his portion of the presentation, Jonathan Schwartz, EVP of Sun's Software Group, demonstrated the compatibility of Sun's StarOffice productivity suite with Microsoft applications by going to Microsoft's Web site, opening its 10K report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and selecting a category labeled "Unearned Revenue." Schwartz promptly renamed a chart of Microsoft revenue as "Sun's potential market."

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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