Sun takes new Java System on the road in Canada

Sun Microsystems Inc. of Canada is not only officially releasing its Sun Java Systems in Canada this week, but the software company also continued its six-city whirlwind trip across the country in an effort to promote Sun’s new family of software systems.

Included in the system are the Java Enterprise System and the Java Desktop System. The Enterprise System is an integrated, open software system that is the foundation for building Java technology-based Web applications and services. Java on the Desktop is what Sun is calling its ‘alternative desktop solution’ that includes a desktop environment based on Gnome – an office suite featuring StarOffice 7 software and a Linux operating system, just to name a few.

Flagging the system – which was initially unveiled in November – as the software revolution, Gord Sissons, director and Canadian vice-president technology with Sun Canada said the Sun Java Systems address three major themes: cost and complexity; accelerating network service deployment; and unleashing mobility with security.

“In essence, our message is around making software simple,” Sissons said to a crowd in a Toronto hotel on Tuesday. “We think, ostensibly, that everything will be connected to the network.”

Sissons’ main topic for discussion revolved around the desktop, and what he called the “first truly completely open alternative on the desktop,” in the Sun Java Desktop System.

“Does the world need another desktop environment?” Sisson asked, to which he quickly answered, “it does…competition is good.”

The main competition that Java is going after with its desktop alternative is Microsoft Corp.’s Office suite.

“This is the first real viable alternative to Microsoft’s desktop in 15 years,” he explained, adding that traditional desktop systems are expensive, vulnerable to security attacks and are increasingly complex to manage. “The Desktop is much more than Linux distribution on the desktop, it also has other stuff,” Sissons said. That other stuff includes a Mozilla 1.4 browser, SuSE Linux Desktop 1.0 variant and what Sissons referred to as a “killer app” for e-mail called the Ximian Evolution 1.4.4, which is similar to Microsoft’s Outlook.

Sissons also said that the new Java desktop system costs 60 per cent less than Microsoft Windows XP and Office 2003. He explained that it “looks and feels” similar to Windows, but has notable differences. For example, instead of an icon that says My Computer, the Java version is called This Computer. Also, instead of having a start button in the bottom left corner, the Java version has a launch button.

However, in order for users to make the switch from Microsoft to Java on the desktop, Sissons explained that the “tipping point” – the point at which the value of the technology needs to overcome the costs associated with migration – needs to be in the forefront of the customer’s mind.

“We really think that with this technology pricing, the tipping point has been reached in terms of software, that is a viable alternative to Microsoft Office,” he said.

In Canada, the Java Desktop System costs $140 per desktop, which is 75 per cent less than Microsoft Windows and Office upgrade, Sissons said.

Francis Newbigin, country manager, software, for Sun Canada spent a few minutes outlining the Java Enterprise System, which is an integrated open software system. She said the three main issues holding back the IT industry from evolving to a shared network services infrastructure are integration, licensing and confusion over prices – all issues that Sun has tried to set straight with the Enterprise System.

“It’s a single product that simplifies pricing, licensing and includes software and services,” she said.

The Java Enterprise System costs $160 per employee for a year and there are no upgrade fees for existing customers, Newbigin said.

With a previous stop in Montreal at the end of November, the road tip will be heading to Calgary next and will also make stops in Edmonton and Vancouver before wrapping up the information gathering sessions on Dec. 5.

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