Taking the per-employee pricing model it introduced last September a great leap forward, Sun Microsystems Inc. says it’s readying a per-citizen licensing plan for countries using its Java Enterprise System and Java Desktop System software.

Under the new plan, government agencies and possibly international aid groups would pay one of three per-citizen rates for software licenses annually. The rate would be tied to a country’s ranking by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which puts countries into one of three classifications: more developed, less developed and least developed.

A government looking to provide e-mail or a Web application to its citizens would pay around US$0.40 per citizen in a country classified as “least developed.” In a “more developed” country like the U.S., pricing would be closer to US$5 per citizen, said Steve Borcich, executive director for Java Enterprise Systems and security marketing at Sun.

The licensing model would also depend on whether a customer bought server or desktop software. The Java Enterprise System — a bundle of Sun’s server software products, including its directory, application and portal servers — could be installed only by the government that signed the deal. Therefore a server license purchased by a national government wouldn’t cover municipal governments.

Any citizen of the licensed country would have the right to install the Java Desktop System, which includes StarOffice applications and a Linux operating system. Sun expects to roll out the new licensing plan in time for its JavaOne developer conference in San Francisco in June. Sun would essentially rely on an honour system to enforce its desktop licenses, said Borcich, who acknowledged that it would be difficult to control software piracy under the system. “We don’t want to advocate piracy, and we’d certainly like to make revenue,” he said. “But if someone wants to pirate software, we would rather they pirate ours, and Java in general, than some other competing technology.”

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