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Sun plans to make all its software free

By Paul Krill, InfoWorld
July 21, 2005 05:06 PM ET

InfoWorld - Sun president and COO Jonathan Schwartz Thursday cited the company's plans to eventually offer all of its software for free as a way to build communities around its technologies.

"The net upside of that is we get more people engaged in our community," Schwartz said of Sun's plans while speaking at the AlwaysOn conference here.

Sun currently offers its Solaris operating system components freely via open source. Technologies such as Java also are downloadable at no charge.

"We've been trying to faithfully explore how to deliver our products and technologies for free," Schwartz said. He made no specific statement about offering Sun hardware for free, however. Sun can leverage its software technologies to boost hardware sales.

Other software products on Sun's roster include its Sun Java Enterprise System middleware, Sun Java Desktop System, the StarOffice office suite, and development tools such as Sun Java Studio Creator. The N1 datacenter management offerings and StorEdge storage software also are in Sun's arsenal.

There have been 2 million licenses downloaded for the open source version of Solaris, Schwartz said. Open source does not imply that there is no revenue to be generated but that different business models are used, he said.

Overall, Schwartz was praiseworthy of open source. "Open source is having a [highly] productive role in driving innovation, driving down cost," he said.

In a comment apparently referring to Microsoft, Schwartz said, "It's going to be tough for folks that are keeping their technologies in a closed-source environment to convince [the market] that they're serious about interoperability."

By commoditizing technology, markets are built up, according to Schwartz. "I think our view has been that commodity markets are the best markets in the world," he said. Schwartz referred to markets such as financial services and telecommunications, where services are commoditized but lots of revenue is generated nonetheless. Commodity produces perpetual demand, Schwartz said.

"The commoditization of some of the marketplace, such as railway services, didn't imply locomotives were commodities," Schwartz said.

Sun, Schwartz continued, is focused on a community of developers creating services that are purchased by individuals with budgets.

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