The Sun, the Stars and the universe….

[ The opinions expressed by authors on Linux Today are their
own. They speak only for themselves and not for Linux Today.

Contributed by Linux Today reader theHippo.

Note: please place tongue in cheek when reading certain sections
of this article.

The takeover of Star Division by Sun has been making headlines
around the world in the last few days. The news is significant
enough. Sun’s taking on Microsoft at it’s own game. Yes, we’ve all
heard this before but the situation is not the same. Some
journalists have noted that it’s not the OS that makes Microsoft
but the applications that run atop the OS. Many people I personally
know want to run Windows only because they’re familiar with MS
Office and think that there’s no alternative (“What MS Word
isn’t the only word processor around?”

I have to say that I have no right writing about office suites
because I come from the breed of people who prefer a text editor to
a word processor for writing, and perl and gnuplot for data
manipulation and graphing. I also have been using a lot of LyX recently for word processing, which I
think is a great package. I admit to having run MS Office a long
while ago. In the past I’ve even tried StarOffice but my home
machine wasn’t powerful enough and it was a drag running it. So my
interest on the topic is the significance of Sun’s takeover not the
usability of office suites.

The expanding universe and other supposedly new

Sun has given StarOffice new directions. Yes you could download a
personal edition of StarOffice for free previously but Star
Division was largely unknown in Silicon Valley, which obviously
meant that the big guns wouldn’t bet their life on Star. Now that
Sun’s put its name to the package there are more mentions of
StarOffice in the American press than at any time.

To my understanding Sun is making the package available for free
for personal and non-personal use, which means that businesses can
reduce their TCO just by moving to StarOffice. Yes, some retraining
would be required but in the long term this could prove to be a
saving. At the moment, if you register then Sun is providing free
online service support.

So why is Sun doing it? Sun’s theory, according to their
is that it will vastly increase their server sales, especially with
the upcoming Java version of StarOffice. StarOffice offers Sun a
shield to the Wintel onslaught.

So what does Sun have to do next? How can it propagate
StarOffice? I would suggest that Sun first capture the grassroots,
i.e. the educational, governmental and non-profit industry.
Convincing these institutions about the savings they can make is
much easier to do then to convince commercial companies who could
see this as a risky move.

Now when little Tommy comes home for his holidays from the
University of Northern America what does he do, but to bring home a
copy of StarOffice so that he can do some word processing. When CEO
“Deep pockets” Dad peers over the shoulder of little Tommy he gets
curious. Little Tommy would then obviously take the opportunity to
promote StarOffice. Well, if only it was so easy. But you get the
point. Most people already know that college students moving on to
industry will take what they learn with them. And here’s the
opportunity for Sun with StarOffice.

Aliens aboard…

Don’t you hate receiving document.doc or
spreadsheet.xls via e-mail? Don’t you hate explaining to
people why most items can be and should be sent in plain text or
tab-delimetered formats. Now here’s your chance for revenge. Yes,
use StarOffice proprietary formats! And if “MS Office” Joey from
down the corridor pops by for information on how to view the files
you sent, just slip him the StarOffice CD-ROM! (I can hear the
jeers from XML proponents!). In the event that you have to spend
time explaining the fact why the package is free, take advantage of
the situation by inserting some pearls about Linux….

Waiting for the Empire to strike back

Evaluating Microsoft’s possible response is a difficult one. For
one they have the will and budget to change the game plan as we
have seen in the past. Internet Explorer is an excellent example.
Sun’s next move to open source StarOffice is the crux of problem,
since StarOffice will gain even wider popularity. So what’s next

Perhaps we’ll see the Windows desktop calculator growing larger
with tables and graphing capabilities included (“Jeez judge,
we’ve been distributing calculators with Windows for ten years
). Or we could suddenly see macro capabilities added to
Wordpad. The boundaries between what constitutes an OS and an
application is so blurred in the Windows world, but do expect it to
get even worse. Windows 2002 with all the “gadgets” will probably
set you back a couple of hundred bucks.

Or…Microsoft could start open sourcing components and start
supporting multiple platforms. There would certainly be some
confusion, especially for the open source purist (“Is it better
to have Satan working with you or working against you?”

Or…Microsoft could support another open source OS and provoke
a jihad within the open source community in the hope of decimating
it. After all it was the open source community who put these
“dirty” ideas into Sun’s mind. Your take Microsoft, make it a one
to remember….

though not a native, currently resides in the green pastures of
northern England. While not relaxing in the mud pool, it uses boxes
loaded with various OS-es including Solaris and Linux for its
research work and attempts to use the dreaded Win9x/NT at other
times. In the past it has used AIX, OS/2, *BSD and Sinclair BASIC,
the latter being it’s favourite.