Sun Microsystems Inc. (www.sun.com) announced here today that it is buying Star Division, a software maker with an office-productivity suite, StarOffice, that is similar to and file-compatible with Microsoft Office.
The company says that it will make Star software available free on its Web site, and, in fact, we were able to go to the site and download it (all 65 MB). The download was reasonably rapid (about 12 minutes) over a T-1 line and 10Base-T LAN.
In the future, Sun says, it will make the source code available free, so that software developers--and VARs who have the desire and capability--will be able to modify the software to suit their needs, or their customers' needs. An announcement on the Sun Web site says, "Just as service providers now supply free e-mail, they will soon provide additional services--such as StarOffice applications--saving users the hassle and expense of software installation and upgrades. To that end, we plan to make the StarOffice suite increasingly Web-centric, so anyone, anywhere, anytime--using any network device--will be able to access easy-to-use productivity tools through a Web browser."
"With StarOffice and StarPortal [a service soon to join StarOffice], Sun is taking Web-based business applications to the next level, and at the same time, driving the service provider model as the standard way of doing business on the Internet," says Bobby Patrick, vice president of strategy and development for Digex Inc., a Web- hosting and application provider. "Today, Digex has one of the world's largest installed bases of Sun's i-Planet hosting services and, as a result, is well- positioned to work with Sun to deliver StarOffice applications via the Internet," he adds.
"It's all part of our vision of open network computing," says Sun CEO Scott McNealy. "Open, standardized, cross-platform file formats are vital to today's .com business model, which includes customers, suppliers, partners,-the whole value chain,-all using a variety of devices and platforms."
Sun is hoping that the availability of Web-based productivity applications will make the need for more Web bandwidth,-and more servers,-apparent. This will help Sun sell more of its high-powered servers. In essence, it is betting on the ASP model, where service providers will deliver applications to end users from somewhere on the Web; users can be agnostic about their desktop platform.
The significance for VARs? Here is a productivity application that comes free to them, around which they can build applications suites they can host, or provide to customers, in other ways.
And, oh yes. This means that someone with a lot of clout-,Sun Microsystems-,is into the ASP model in a big way.