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Bruce Perens: Sun's StarOffice Release: Is It Really What You Think?

Sep 07, 1999, 01:10 (9 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Perens)

[ Thanks to Tim Hanson for this link. ]

"Recently Sun Microsystems released StarOffice for Linux, Windows, and other platforms, for download with no charge. They promised to release the StarOffice source code under the Sun Community Source License. This essay clears up some mis-reporting and discusses implications of the StarOffice release."

"Sun has released binary versions of StarOffice with a conventional restrictive license for download, and promises to soon release the source code under the Sun Community Source License (the SCSL). That license claims some of the benefits of Open Source, but is quite far from compliance with the Open Source Definition. Some press and industry pundits were confused by this, and erroneously announced StarOffice as Open Source software. However, I have seen no evidence that Sun represented that StarOffice was Open Source. Indeed, Sun has published an article that touches upon some differences between Open Source and the SCSL. The most important differences between the SCSL and Open Source licenses are that it allows research and internal use only, not commercial distribution, and that it severely restricts the distribution of modifications."

"Of course, it's a broadside at Microsoft, the largest threat to Sun's future revenues. The free StarOffice release is an attempt to eat into the profits MS derives from its own Office product, and to break an effective monopoly that MS holds on business software. Sun has assisted Linux and other operating systems on the principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, because those systems cut into Microsoft's operating-systems revenue and intrude upon their monopoly in the systems software market. Unfortunately, my enemy's enemy relationships often break down after the war, as the relationship between the Soviet Union's and the U.S., essential for beating the Nazis, became acrimonious after World War II ended. Linux systems on cheap commodity PC hardware are already cutting into Sun's server sales, no doubt this causes them concern."

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