Sun Microsystems is negotiating with up to 50 PC manufacturers to distribute its free Web-based StarPortal office productivity suite.
The Star Portal strategy is based on the StarOffice word processing and office software which Sun acquired following its takeover of privately owned developer Star Division in August.
In a bid to challenge the omnipotence of Microsoft's market-leading Office suite and create demand for its own server and storage products, Sun is offering StarPortal free to all customers.
While aware that many will be loathe to run foul of Microsoft, Sun is hoping to gain widespread distribution for the suite by persuading PC vendors to pre-load it on their machines.
Marco Boerries, head of Sun's Webtop and application software group, said Sun was "the only company left on the planet able to change the rules and open up the market."
"We believe that for the classical business software model, the days will bepretty soon over," Boerries said.
Internet access devices, such as cellphones, would greatly outnumber PCs in a few years, and users would be unwilling to pay high licence fees for applications software to run on them, he said.
"Software will become a service and the notion of an application will go away. We didn't want to produce another fat client office suite priced for free to annoy Microsoft," Boerries added.
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