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The economy's tanking, and despair abounds. So no computer company should be chastised too harshly for trying to market its way out of the trough.

But Sun's recent announcements are beginning to resemble North American bacon - all fat and no meat.

Billed in screaming capitals as "SUN CHANGES THE GAME IN SOFTWARE- NEXT GENERATION SOFTWARE PLATFORMUNVEILED", we were invited to the San Francisco office today.

Stevie Wonder was there. A Berkeley botanist announced he'd bred a new and beautiful variety of orchid - and he was going to call it "SunONE". And Scott McNealy reprised Siegfried and Roy's Las Vegas magic act - by making an elephant disappear!

Not really - but you get the picture.

Back to the bacon: there are seven press releases but only one contains any pink bits, this one.

The news is that Sun will give away the app server across all platforms - Window, HP-UX and AIX as well as Solaris, for free. We already knew that it was bundling the app server for free with Solaris, because Pat Sueltz let this one slip within earshot of an IDG sharpshooter last year.

"The app. server has become the new OS and the base functionality is now free," said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's software chief, in an online chat session.

Almost as interesting was Sun's response to the question -'Is there any substance to the rumor that Sun will begin charging for the Solaris operating environment above the typical media charge? '

Anil Gadre replied: "we continue to offer no charge licenses for single cpu systems. Solaris is included in new systems shipped by Sun," which isn't exactly a resounding "No!".

Schwartz calls the process of giving user land stuff away with the operating system as 'sedimentation'. We wish Sun wouldn't use words like 'sedimentation' - things are muddy enough already in the murky world of web services.

As for Sun, there's no reason to believe it's in anything but good shape - and looks even better alongside IBM's recent figures, and with HP still deciding whether it wants to be in the middleware business.

(We were scheduled a briefing from HP today, but this morning were told that talking anything but OpenView is still taboo.)

The application server was acquired by Netscape when it bought Kiva Software in 1997, and became iPlanet through Sun's agreement with AOL. The iPlanet employees transferred to Sun last year. Funnily enough, Sun still lists the "Kiva Enterprise Server" in its directory of Java solutions on this page here, which is sweet.

(Don't bother ringing the Kiva contact number. It's still unassigned.) ®

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