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Java Desktop System "for Half the Price of Microsoft," Sun Guarantees in India

Java Desktop System "for Half the Price of Microsoft," Sun Guarantees in India

[The following report, written by a staff reporter of The Telegraph, appeared last week in Calcutta.]

Blazing Sun ready to best Microsoft offer

With Microsoft deciding to withdraw support for Windows 98 from December 23, Sun Microsystems has decided to hawk its desktop software — Java Desktop System — at a 50 per cent discount to any offer that Microsoft makes.

According to Microsoft, the no-charge support for Windows 98 ended on July 1. Paid support will continue at $35 per incident until January 16, 2006, two years after phone support ends on January 16. The list also includes the popular Outlook 2000.

“We will agree to match any offer Microsoft puts on the table for desktop software — at 50 per cent of Microsoft's quoted offer. No matter what their offer, we'll agree to provide the software for half their price. If they offer Windows and Office for $200 per desktop, we'll offer them for $100. If they offer $50, our offer will be $25,” Sun Microsystems vice-president executive-software group Jonathan Schwartz said in an open letter.

Schwartz said the Java desktop, which runs on Linux, is available at one-tenth the price of a Microsoft desktop with ten times greater security. He further said Microsoft's decision to stop distributing and supporting older products is a deliberate attempt to coerce customers to upgrade to newer software.

“It's a lesson in how a company with legendary market dominance can lose sight of customer priorities and force a transition on to a customer base already paralysed with viruses and security breaches,” Schwartz said in the letter.

Sun officials have also taken offence at Microsoft’s claim that Sun “forced its hand” to stop distributing older products.

In a posting on the Microsoft site, the company said several products would be phased out because of a settlement reached with Sun in January 2001 regarding the distribution of Windows products that use the Java virtual machine, a software needed to run programs written with Sun’s Java language.

Microsoft’s distribution of its own Java software is the subject of a long-standing suit against Microsoft, in which Sun succeeded in restricting Microsoft from distributing its own Java virtual machine for Windows.

In 2001, the companies reached an agreement under which Microsoft would stop shipping products that included a Microsoft-written Java virtual machine by January 2004. In October, that deadline was extended to September of next year.

Schwartz claimed that Microsoft did not need to pull the plug on its Java-dependent products so soon. “The agreement between Sun and Microsoft gives customers a graceful transition path to a future platform far beyond December 23,” Schwartz said. “Moreover, Sun has offered, and will continue to offer, a licence to Java technology that would spare Microsoft any transition whatsoever, so long as Microsoft maintains compatibility.” The launch of Microsoft’s Longhorn, which is expected to be a more secure product than Windows, has been quoted as one of the reasons for the software major’s support pull-out. If Microsoft sticks to its decision and stops issuing security patches in January, smaller companies worldwide will have to weigh the option of upgrading to newer Windows versions, involving a huge expense.

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