Linuxcare Assists Sun With Star Acquisition

Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), seeking to add value to its highly analyzed acquisition of StarDivision, recently tapped Linuxcare, Inc. to provide service and support for its new StarOffice productivity suite offering.

Under terms of the agreement, Linuxcare will supply technical support for both developers and end-users of StarOffice for Linux, along with custom development, training and enterprise integration services. “Collaborating with Sun to deliver a complete Linux productivity solution represents a positive step forward in an expanding relationship that will bring significant benefits to enterprise Linux environments,” commented Linuxcare president and CEO Fernand Sarrat.

StarPortal Wars

A central component of Sun’s new plan — based on Fremont, California-based StarDivision’s product — is the StarPortal initiative, which will bring free word processing, presentation graphics, spreadsheet and other office software features to anyone with a Web browser. The suite will also be available as a free download, with minor royalty fees applying to corporate users.

The free availability of such high-powered productivity software could signal a major paradigm shift, according to many industry analysts, someday rendering obsolete the immense and heftily priced offerings by the likes of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT). “Sun continually thinks of where the industry is going instead of where it is today,” said Sun president and CEO Ed Zander at a press conference.

“Sun’s adoption of StarOffice is an astute move that will be warmly welcomed by Linux users in the enterprise,” observed Sarrat. A swelling chorus of industry insiders has joined Linuxcare in applauding Sun’s move. David Gang, senior vice president for strategic development at America Online, Inc. (NYSE: AOL) stated that the online services titan is “looking forward to developing new consumer products and utilities with Sun and StarDivision.”

The suite, a longtime favorite of Linux enthusiasts, will also reach out to Solaris and Windows NT operating system (OS) users. Although Sun denies a direct challenge to Microsoft, the potential for an office suite market shakeup is clear to many industry observers and insiders. “You can’t beat the price, unless we start mailing checks to you to use it,” commented Sun CEO Scott Mcnealy in a ZDNet report.

Applix Moves Into the Open-Source Office Space

Applix, Inc., through its e-commerce site, recently released an updated version of its own office suite for Linux. The Applixware Office Suite 4.4.2 features several productivity components, including Data, Graphics, Mail, Presents, Spreadsheets and Words.

Product features are similar to Microsoft offerings, and this is of course no accident. Not only does the Redmond, Washington-based software provider stand to lose office suite market share, it also finds itself in something of a David and Goliath scenario with regard to operating systems. Linux, an OS created in 1991 as a freely distributed alternative to Windows, is seen by many industry analysts as a serious threat to Microsoft’s dominance.

According to International Data Corp. (IDC), Linux is making significant inroads. IDC numbers indicate that there are more than 12 million Linux users worldwide. In 1998, the Linux market grew by 212% and nearly 18% of all server hardware licenses sold last year were Linux.

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