March 22, 2004 — Sun Microsystems is actively seeking an audience with the governments of developing countries like the Philippines, hoping to convince government officials to give open source a shot and try its desktop solutions as a lower-cost alternative to Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office suite.

Regional Sun executives met recently with representatives of different Philippine government agencies, including the National Computer Center (NCC) and the Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC), to introduce the company's Java Desktop System, which runs on Linux.

NCC is spearheading the government's computerization efforts that cover even local government units (LGUs). "But we obviously need to follow up these efforts," said Terence Ng, Sun regional director for sales.

Sun is positioning the Java Desktop System as a cheaper alternative for use by government offices.

The Java Desktop System is a collection of open source software aimed at corporate customers seeking an alternative to Windows and Microsoft Office. The Desktop System costs 00 per employee for new users and 0 per employee for existing users of Java Enterprise Systems for servers.

Ng said the push towards Linux in Third World countries is currently in the "seeding" stage. However, Sun officials were quick to cite customer wins in neighboring countries like China. Sun has closed a deal with China Standard Software Company (CSSC), a consortium of companies supported by the Chinese government, to use the Java Desktop System.

Scott McNealy, Sun chief executive officer, announced the deal at the Comdex trade show last November, saying the Java Desktop System will be deployed in 500,000 to 1 million desktops in China in 2004.

More importantly, Sun's partnership with CSSC allows the latter to use the Java Desktop System as foundation for developing cheaper desktop tools meant for mass adoption. Sun is looking to cut similar deals in Third World countries.

"We're looking to OEM our Java Desktop System per industry as well, for example, in the education sector, to allow developers to build tools for mass consumption in each industry," Ng said.

Sun will introduce the Java Desktop System before the local open source community, including software developers, in a developer forum next month.

"One of the keys to bridging the digital divide is the cost of computing," said Hong Eng Koh, Sun regional director for industry strategy and development. "Open source involves getting a lot of software from various sources. What we offer is already a stack of software tools ready for use."

Lawrence Casiraya writes for Computerworld Philippines.

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