Sun's Webtop replaces StarPortal project

Sun Microsystems Inc. is integrating its free office-productivity suite, StarOffice, into Webtop, the company's project to provide an integrated hosted desktop environment, according to a Sun executive. Webtop is a component of Sun's Open Network Environment (ONE) platform for Web-based delivery of services.

After Sun acquired the Hamburg-based Star Division in August 1999, it announced a hosted version of StarOffice called StarPortal.

"The name of (StarPortal) is now Sun ONE Webtop," John Loiacono, Sun's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, told IDG News Service. "The product itself is currently more of a development environment that it is a product. So you don't take it as a CD, dump it onto a server, and you now have Webtop services. It is really an environment where you are going to embed it into something else."

Webtop, which was announced in February, is likely to translate into professional services revenue for Sun, because demand is high from customers wanting Sun to help them build the environment, and do the development as well, added Loiacono.

Sun will, however, continue to offer newer versions of the traditional client version of StarOffice, including upcoming version 6.0. "You still need to have the traditional client (so) that (you) can download the files, ... work on them on the airplane, and then you can re-synchronize once you get off the plane."

The hosted application model continues to have potential, even though a number of application service providers (ASPs) are in trouble, according to Masood Jabbar, Sun's executive vice president, global sales operation. "The ASP model is here to stay. The delay you are seeing is because applications were never written to be delivered in that way. The new breed of applications that are coming out are planning to take advantage of delivery over the Internet," added Jabbar.

Sun announced the StarPortal project about 18 months ago, but delayed it because Sun had to re-architect the client version to take it to a Web-based model.

The Webtop desktop environment helps service providers deliver productivity applications through a branded, customized, Internet-based desktop. "We have about 50 customers who are currently well into their beta programs, and we have about ten customers who during this calendar year will deploy Sun ONE Webtop services," added Loiacono.

After its acquisition of Star Division, Sun put the code for StarOffice in open source, and offered free downloads of the software. "If a service provider wanted to create an application that embeds word processing, spreadsheet or some capability, we give him the source code to enable him to do that," said Loiacono. "What was really interesting to us was not the actual application itself. It is that (Star Division) had some development work early on for the portal version, which was actually the ability to take the service, which is basically a productivity suite service, and bring it to the Net." Besides service providers, Sun expects large organizations to host Webtop services for in-house use.

Sun Microsystems, in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at +1-650-960-1300 or at http://www.sun.com/.

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