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Sun Sets More Software Free, Cautions MA on Microsoft

On Wednesday, Sun Microsystems revealed that it will give away more of its enterprise software in a bid to gain market share and increase support revenues. The company announced that it will make its Java Enterprise System, Sun N1 Management software, and Sun developer tools available at no cost to customers. The announcement follows a similar move last year, when Sun made its enterprise-class Solaris operating system available for free as well.

"With more than 3.4 million Solaris 10 licenses and nearly one million Java Enterprise System subscribers, customers and developers around the world have asked us to take the next logical step: combining the world's fastest growing open source operating system with the world's most complete and ready to deploy infrastructure software platform," says Sun president and COO Jonathan Schwartz. "With our announced intent to open source the entirety of our software offerings, every single developer across the world now has access to the most sophisticated platform available for Web 1.0, 2.0 and beyond."

Sun's assurances to the contrary, the company's open source moves have been met with suspicion from the Open Source Software (OSS) community, which continues to badger the company to open up its Java programming environment. Meanwhile, Sun's plan to make money while giving away its software seems to hinge on support services. The company also announced a variety of technical support services for its free software, and Schwartz commented that he had never run into an enterprise customer that would deploy software that wasn't supported.

From a reach perspective, Sun's and Star Office productivity suites have proven to be quite popular with end users as well. The company reports that 53 million copies of that software have been downloaded by customers. This compares to about 70 million copies of the MySQL database and over 100 million downloads of the Mozilla Firefox Web browser, two other popular OSS solutions.

In related news, Sun has also asked the state of Massachusetts not to jump back into the Microsoft camp so easily. Massachusetts had been pushing for a move to open document  formats like the Sun-supported OpenDocument format, but seemed to drop that requirement when Microsoft announced that it would submit its Office 12 document formats to a standards body. "While Microsoft has promised to eventually submit Office 12 to a standards body, the Commonwealth must act on existing standards to best serve its future needs for document exchange," Carl Cargill, Sun's director of corporate standards, wrote to Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and secretary of administration and finance Thomas Trimarco. "Only after a specification has been approved by a broadly supported standards body, one that demonstrates acceptable levels of openness by being available to all competing products, should the Commonwealth consider including that open standard as one of its own."

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