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Japan gives OK to Sun desktop suite

Economics and trade ministry to consider company's open-source desktop suite for future bids.

The Japanese government has approved Sun Microsystems' open-source desktop software for use within one of its ministries, Sun is expected to announce.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has endorsed Sun's Java Desktop System as an approved product for future bids, a Sun representative said Wednesday. The ministry is undergoing an evaluation of its current desktop software but has not yet committed to deploying JDS, the representative said.

JDS is a suite of open-source office desktop programs that includes the Linux operating system and the company's open-source StarOffice suite. Sun also sells versions of JDS for its Solaris operating system, and individual components, such as the browser and StarOffice, also run on Windows.

Sun charges $100 per user for the software, or $50 per user if JDS is deployed to all employees in an organization.

In a blog posting, Sun President Jonathan Schwartz said the Japanese ministry's interest in JDS validates Sun's strategy to pursue the desktop market. Making PCs more affordable, he said, will boost the number of PCs sold, which in turn will drive demand for Sun's back-end infrastructure software, servers and services.

Schwartz said Sun's target market for JDS is for PCs that are generally restricted to a few applications, such a PC in a call center or a public kiosk.

He noted that Sun had approached other PC manufacturers, which traditionally have close ties to Microsoft and Windows, but most showed no interest in packaging Sun's open-source suite.

"They're trying to maintain margins, not make PCs more affordable," he said.

In November of last year, Sun signed a deal with China Standard Software, a consortium of Chinese companies supported by the Beijing government, to use JDS. The goal of the partnership was creating millions of low-cost PCs bundled with JDS for purchase in China, according to Sun.

Sun has a similar flat-rate, per-user pricing strategy for its suite of server software, called Java Enterprise System. Last month, Sun signed on European mobile carrier Vodafone to use components of the Java Enterprise system in as many as 26 countries.