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Sun Micro free software aimed to undercut Microsoft

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CIOL Bureau
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Peter Henderson

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SAN FRANCISCO: High-end computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. announced on

Wednesday a free software initiative aimed at undercutting Microsoft Corp. in

the battle to set the standards of the next-generation Internet.

The battleground between Sun and Microsoft's .NET initiative is the layer of

software that will form the backbone of the next generation Internet, and Sun

will give away a key part, called an application server, that runs on Microsoft

systems as well as the hit operating system, Linux.

Sun and Microsoft see a world of "Web services" in which clever

software anticipates users' needs, such as automatically ordering parts for a

factory that is running low or finding directions to an appointment listed in a

business person's calendar.

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For that to happen, a layer of backbone software must stitch together

computers that run operating systems and translate data between applications.

Sun has a good start, because its Java platform runs programs while sitting on

top of many operating systems, including Windows, while Windows programs run

only on Windows.

The next step is aimed at cementing the ascendance of Java, despite Microsoft

plans to phase out support.

So Sun plans to give away for computers that run Windows, Linux and Unix

operating systems from Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM a basic version of its

application server, a type of backbone software that runs custom applications

necessary for web services and communicates data between applications.

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If it succeeds, developers wooed by free software will create programs for

its systems, rather than Microsoft's. "We are going after the .NET

developer and deployer and the Linux community developer and deployer,"

said Marge Breya, vice president of the Sun ONE software division.

"What we're really trying to do is bring together these three developer

communities into a consolidated Java web services ignition, if you well,"

she said. Santa Clara, California-based Sun is a former Internet star which

called itself "the dot in dot-com" until the firms that bought its

computers to run their networks began going bankrupt.

Sun hopes that the free software will stimulate sales of its servers and of

other software tools, including more sophisticated versions of the application

server, Breya said.

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By setting the non-Microsoft standard, Sun is "making sure we have a

right to compete," she said. "We define open standards, compete on

implementation." However, the free offer is hardly an assurance of success.

Sun's competitive success in the application server market has been limited

so far. In 2001 Sun slipped to fourth place in the market with a 7.9 per cent

share, behind BEA Systems Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Oracle

Corp., researcher IDC Corp reported.

Sun also has failed to convince many that it is serious about software

applications, which executives have long characterized as the means to sell

hardware.

(C) Reuters Limited.

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