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Sun pimps out OpenOffice as Microsoft 'clarifies' Office for web

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OpenOffice is being pimped out by Sun Microsystems, just as Microsoft takes Office online, if Sun's chief executive latest blog entry is anything to go by.

Jonathan Schwartz has posted that an "auction's afoot...to see who we'll be partnering with us to integrate their business and brands into our binary product distribution" of OpenOffice.

He added: "I know this annoys my friends in the free software community, but branding allows us to invest more in OpenOffice.org community and features, from which everyone benefits."

Schwartz is known for lobbing grenades posed as "what ifs," and what he actually meant with his latest post remains mystery. A Sun spokeswoman told The Reg there was nothing more to tell at this stage. She added: "Sun is always exploring new opportunities to increase reach and revenue, support our communities and increase value for our partners and customers."

What Schwartz meant is therefore a matter for him and his blogging software. But the suggestion is that Sun wants partners to insert their logos or bands into the code and that you'll be subjected to the ads either during download or once you open your copy of the suite.

It looks like Sun is trying to tempt potential advertisers on the strength of OpenOffice's reach: Schwartz estimated there exists between 150m and 200m OpenOffice users. "Estimated" is the operative word here, and he likely means "downloads." "100's of millions of users drive a lot of foot traffic," he said. Sun would likely be after up-front cash or a share of any ads-based revenue.

Sun is well positioned to insert adware in the OpenOfffice code.

Sun is the primary code contributor to the OpenOffice Project, with other contributors including Red Hat, IBM, Novell, and Google. OpenOffice is available for download from Sun's own site. And finally, Sun's own StarOffice suite is built using the OpenOffice.org source, APIs, file formats, and reference implementation.

For Sun, it's the latest sign that Microsoft is rubbing off on it, following this week's deal to bundle Microsoft's Live Search with the Java Runtime download. Microsoft in 2005 first said it wanted to put ads into its own business applications.

The OpenOffice news comes as Microsoft has attempted to clarify in a way that only Microsoft can - i.e. by sowing further confusion - what it's got in store for the up-coming web-based version of its Office suite, Office Web Applications. The suite was unveiled at last month's Professional Developers' Conference (PDC).

A Microsoft FAQ has said Office Web Applications will be available to consumers via Office Live with both ad-funded and subscription offerings.

"That seems to imply a free (ad-supported) and paid (subscription) offering will be available. For business customers," Microsoft said apparently unaware of what's coming itself. For business customers, Microsoft will also offer Office Web Applications "as a hosted subscription service and through existing volume licensing agreements."

So: Office Web Applications will possibly be free, but Microsoft hasn't decided. There could be ads, but Office Web Applications will also be available under subscription and volume licensing agreement. The one thing Microsoft did say categorically is that details on pricing have not been released yet. That part was obvious - thanks Microsoft.

On the technology side, Microsoft wants you to consume its software. You won't have to use Microsoft's Silverlight browser-based plug-in order to use Office Web Applications - but you won't get the full Office Web Applications experience unless you do. Using Silverlight will provide sharper images and integration with Office Live Workspace, which will let you upload multiple files.

Also, you'll get to share documents via integration with Microsoft's SharedView, part of Office Live Workspace, to edit and share documents simultaneously in realtime.

Microsoft also used its FAQ to re-emphasize Office Web Applications will run in Firefox and Safari, stressing this will make Office Web Applications available on Apple's iPhone. ®

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