The Economist: Apps on tap

“By acquiring Star Division…Sun is taking direct aim at
Microsoft’s Office, which includes word processors and
spreadsheets. This cash cow, which generates about 40% of
Microsoft’s revenues, is now threatened by Sun’s promise to give
away Star Division’s much-admired competing product, StarOffice,
which can work alongside Microsoft applications and also runs on
Linux and Sun’s own Solaris operating system. What is more, Sun
will publish the program’s source code, so that other developers
can adapt and improve the software.”

“In this, Sun is taking a leaf from the Microsoft bible-the
company is known for making life hard for its competitors by giving
away its products.
Yet Sun’s manoeuvre may fail. Microsoft
Office is even more dominant in its market than Windows is in PC
operating systems. Although firms that take free software will save
some money (a basic copy of Microsoft Office retails for $499),
they will have to spend an unknown amount on training and
supporting staff who are unfamiliar with StarOffice.”

“Yet as well as revealing the acquisition of Star Division
(although not its terms), Sun also announced something that will in
the long run probably matter more. The firm intends to transform
Star Division’s software into an online service. Instead of loading
the large program on to their hard disks, users will be able to
gain access to it on the Internet from any PC or device, such as a
Palm Pilot or a mobile phone, that is equipped with a web browser.
By October, Sun hopes to launch its own service, to be called
StarPortal, and will give other companies that want to create their
own sites the software they need.”

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