Sun chief executive Scott McNealy used his Comdex appearance to take his customary swipe at Microsoft, announcing a massive open source deal with the Chinese government signed in part because the Chinese authorities "didn't like the alternative".
The contract to roll out between 500,000 and one million desktops by the end of 2004 will make Sun the Linux-based desktop leader in one fell swoop, McNealy claimed.
"It makes us instantaneously the number one Linux desktop player on the planet," he said.
Signed in conjunction with the newly established China Standard Software Company, a consortium of Chinese government-supported firms, the deal could eventually stretch to 500 million desktops, which McNealy said was the Chinese government's aim.
"They just didn't like the alternative," he joked with the audience at his Comdex keynote speech in Las Vegas.
McNealy said Sun would be pushing to win more governments over to its StarOffice range. "We're calling on every IT ministry on the planet. Stay tuned," he added.
In the UK, the Office of Government Commerce is looking at whether open source can save the taxpayer money - with both Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) and Novell's offering under consideration.
McNealy said JDS would cost $50 per user, per year.
Sun also unveiled some in-development features during the presentation, such as 3D desktop views which triple the visible display area of a monitor.
As the user scrolls to the left or the right by pointing the cursor at the edge of the display, so does the display. The original documents re-emerge as the user scrolls back.
The demo also saw a RealPlayer window spun through 360 degrees and a note attached to the back of it.
With the audience suitably impressed, McNealy took the opportunity to remind delegates of analyst studies that showed the cost of StarOffice 7 to be a sixth of Office 2003.
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