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Sun expands program to woo start-ups

The company is expected to announce tomorrow that it's spending more money in its effort to lure Internet companies and start-ups.

Sun Microsystems is expected to announce tomorrow that it's spending more money in its effort to lure Internet companies and start-ups.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company will add another $200 million tomorrow to a venture fund to take equity stakes in companies that will sell products based on Sun technology, so the program can be expanded to companies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, sources said. Sun already earmarked $200 million in October to companies in the San Francisco area.

Less than a month ago, Sun also unveiled a separate $300 million effort for co-marketing, discounted products and other incentives to attract young companies to Sun hardware.

Companies such as Sun, IBM, Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer are fighting to attract new Internet companies as fast as possible. These companies could become large and important customers as the Internet spreads into more corners of everyday life. Close ties with start-ups, involving equity investments, also are a way for big companies to profit from the entrepreneurial boom in the way venture capitalists have.

Sun is widely viewed as the first company that start-ups turn to for servers to power their Internet sites, but evidently it is feeling the heat from the hundreds of millions of dollars rivals are sinking into their programs.

The company also started a partnership with Broadvision, whose software customizes Web sites for visitors based on browsing behavior. The plan for joint software development and marketing is interesting because Broadvision was one of HP's early partners.

Broadvision will incorporate Java 2 Enterprise Edition, a collection of software components from Sun that makes it easier to run e-commerce software on back-end servers. Though the collection initially met with a chilly reception, flexibility by Sun has led to new licensees.

Under the deal, the companies will expand joint technical support, training, sales and services for Broadvision software running on Sun computers.

Broadvision today also released a new version of its flagship One-To-One Enterprise software that includes increased Java support.