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Sun expands program for start-ups

The server giant expands its iForce program to help companies move to the Internet and to lure new start-up customers to its hardware.

Sun Microsystems has expanded its iForce program to help companies move to the Internet and to lure new start-up customers to its hardware.

The program connects start-ups with low-cost hardware, software and consulting services and gives them access to outsourcing companies that specialize in running complex computer systems for customers who want to avoid the hassle.

The iForce initiative began with discounted software from just two organizations: database seller Oracle and the iPlanet e-commerce software partnership of Sun and America Online. Now, there are more than 40 companies involved, said Jeanette Kennedy, director of Sun's dot-com market development. The partners include new software companies, consultants and firms that will integrate computers and software for a specific job.

Sun, though inundated with new customers, is still working hard to maintain its leadership in the Unix server market over competitors Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Compaq Computer and others.

Though the iForce program has attracted 2,000 new customers, Sun still gets more revenue from more mature start-ups, Kennedy said.