Sun to triumph over MS in Web wars – StarOffice chief
And Steve Ballmer is all mouth, Boerries seems to reckon
The traditional $300 software package is doomed, and in the race to replace it with a service model Sun will triumph over Microsoft, says Star Division founder Marco Boerries. Speaking in London in his new capacity as a Sun VP* earlier today, Boerries opened up on the company's strategy for application service provision and the forthcoming StarPortal software. And let's hear it for the Rebel Alliance: "I truly believe Sun is the only company left on the planet who's able to change the rules." Sun bought Star Division, along with its StarOffice productivity suite and StarPortal earlier this year, and Boerries' division is a key component of the company's strategy. The way Sun sees it, he says, is that "the classical business model of a $300 application with a $200 upgrade every 18 months will be over soon," its demise triggered by the explosion of devices connected to the net. He reckons that in three to five years there will be about a billion of them. The price, footprint and mobility of these devices will turn software into a service (by a probably not very bizarre coincidence Steve Ballmer was bashing the same drum yesterday) delivered via a portal. That allows you access to all of your information wherever you are, whatever device you're using. Note that the point here isn't so much that you're renting application time on the Web - the apps are really a process, and it's misleading to think of StarPortal as simply a Web-ised version of the StarOffice suite. "It's an integrated work-space where you aggregrate all of your information resources," says Boerries. StarPortal is going to go out to customers in December, and Boerries expects live services to be kicking off by about April. Microsoft will be pushing down a similar road, but he's insistent that Sun is much further ahead, and has substantial advantages. Steve Ballmer started talking about putting Microsoft applications on the Web shortly after Sun announced the StarOffice purchase, and claimed MS had been working on it for two years but, sniffs Boerries, that would make it the first time Microsoft hadn't talked about a product two years before it started developing it. StarPortal will also be smarter, so if you want to access a POP mailbox "the server knows how to get to the data, knows what kind of device you have, and trascodes the data so it only sends what you require." Server-based software, he argues, is good, and particularly so when it comes to something as slim as (or slimmer than) a Palm. Sun can also, he says, afford to just get the service rolling then just wait until it can reel in server customers. It expects quite a lot of StarPortal customers to start out with Linux and NT servers, but as traffic increases (with all of these devices getting connected, it surely will), they'll start to run into a wall, and then they'll start to move to Sparc and Solaris. That's a pretty down-the-line Sun script, but it has a certain plausibility to it. ® * Boerries presumably has a very wide businesses card. His official title is (deep breath) vice president and general manager, Webtop and Application Software Software (sic) Products and Platforms Division -- Sun, don'tcha just love it?