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Free Apps Aren't Trusted, Sun Web Rivals Say
(09/01/99, 12:24 p.m. ET)
By Lee Kimber, TechWeb
Internet security fears and lack of features could undermine Sun's free Web application strategy, rival developers said Tuesday.
They said they wondered if Sun missed the point when it said Corel and Lotus failed to win the Internet application market because they charged for their applications. Instead, developers said security concerns and functionality were the real reasons enterprise customers snubbed Web application portals, application service providers, and alternative Office suites.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said security fears prevented the company from releasing a public, Internet application server even though it had developed one. It now offers it as part of the Microsoft Commercial Internet Service package for ISPs -- but no ISPs are known to have rolled it out.
"Microsoft offers Windows Terminal Server with Office 97 so you can have a centralized application in the firewalled environment preferred by customers," the spokeswoman said. "Microsoft is increasingly hearing customers do want [application service provision] so it's evaluating it, but it was already evaluating it."
Others questioned Sun president Ed Zander's claim that Microsoft's Office suite was "a fat client" suite against which StarOffice would not have to compete.
"If we can get a free, full-featured office suite out on Linux, it's a good thing," said Lonn Johnstone, vice president of Linux server developer TurboLinux, in Brisbane, Calif.
"I'm skeptical of Sun's claim that StarOffice is a server-based application," Johnstone said. "There's nothing unique about it that's not available from a client suite."
Johnstone should know -- TurboLinux used to sell Turbo Business Apps for Linux for $34. Described as a "collection of the best applications and productivity tools available for the Linux OS," Business Apps included word processing, a database, and finance tools. It no longer appears on TurboLinux's website.
Asked about it, Johnstone said TurboLinux now concentrates on building Linux servers.
"It's still a Microsoft Office world on the desktop," he said.
Developers of rival office suites for Linux declined to comment. Even before Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun decided to give it away, StarOffice was $39.95, the cheapest of three office suites for Linux. Its rivals include Applix's $99 Applixware and S.u.S.E.'s $69.95 Linux Office Suite 99.
It also competed against a range of single server-hosted applications that included Corel's Wordperfect 8 for Linux ($495 server edition, $69.95 for personal use) and Applied Information Systems' $495 Xess spreadsheet.
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