Sun Aims Education Initiative at Microsoft

Sun Microsystems’ ding-dong battle with Microsoft for
command of the market for word processing software took another step forward
Monday with the launch of a massive education initiative and an expansion of
its no-cost StarOffice licensing plan.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun lifted the wraps
off the Sun Education Software (EduSoft) Portfolio initiative that offers
access to a range of technologies with no-cost licenses for education and
research institutions.

The move comes just days after rival Microsoft wooed the
academic world
with the release of Visual Studio .NET 2003 Academic
Edition to U.S. schools and signals a larger shift by the tech heavyweights
to cozy up to open-source and education institutions to win acceptance for
their respective software.

For Sun, which is positioning its StarOffice 6.0 word processing suite to
work on Solaris SPARC, Linux and Windows OS environments, the single
software license puts its technologies at the fingertips of more than
100,000 users within the academic community. The value
of the offering, exceeds $1 billion, the company said.

Adding to the free licensing momentum, Sun is the only vendor to offer a
complete Web-based
curriculum for its productivity software, at no cost to the education and
research community,” the company boasted.

The EduSoft
initiative
lets teachers, students and campus IT staff evaluate, test
and develop applications with Sun’s range of software and offers discounts
and free Web-based training curriculum for eligible institutions

EduSoft, which becomes available in March, allows access to such Sun products
as the Solaris 9 Operating Environment, SunONE starter kit, SunONE Studio,
Sun ONE Web Services Development products, GNOME and StarOffice
software.

It is not the first time Sun has opted to free up its software to win
fans for its software. Last September, the company’s StarOffice giveaway
program was extended
in schools throughout Europe and South Africa.

The StarOffice software is being billed as an alternative to Microsoft
Office. Normally, StarOffice retails for home users at $75.95, but it is
free for educational institutions. Because it interoperates with other
desktop suites, including MS Office, Sun is hoping to gain traction by
engaging in a price war with the Redmond-based behemoth.

Winning fans among open-source advocates is a crucial part of Sun’s
strategy to compete with Microsoft. Sun’s OpenOffice community is aimed at
creating an office suite that will run all major platforms. More
importantly, it lets companies disgruntled with Microsoft test the waters
for cheaper (and sometimes free) open-source alternatives.

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