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Sun begins huge giveaway in Asia

The company is offering 120 applications worth an estimated $700 million at no cost to universities in South Asia, in an attempt to build loyalty among IT students.

Sun Microsystems is trying to woo a new generation of IT students in Asia.

The company said Wednesday it is offering 120 applications at no cost to research institutions and universities in 10 countries in south Asia.

The giveaway, which Sun estimates to be worth $700 million, includes license-free access and support for products under the new Sun Edusoft Portfolio licensing plan.

The StarOffice productivity suite, Solaris 9 operating system and Web services development tools will be among the tools given away in Asia.

Students and staff from colleges and universities across South Asia can download the software or ask for a master disc, said Kim Jones, vice president for global education and research for Sun. Free Web-based training for some of the products is also included.

"The free training will cover four families of tools--Solaris, Java, StarOffice and the Sun Open Net Environment," Jones said.

To start, the company said five institutions in Singapore--Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic--have signed up for the program.

"We are now look looking at expanding our reach across South Asia and are presently in talks with Malaysian universities," she added.

Sun unveiled on Tuesday a similar investment in North Asia. The company said it will donate $2 billion worth of software and training to universities in China, a move that is expected to benefit 16 million students in the country.

These announcements are part of the company's efforts to carve further inroads into the region's schools. Sun is trying to seed its Java-based technology among academics and students in a bid to challenge the domination of archrival Microsoft.

In the opposite camp, Microsoft has been trying to do the same with its .Net and Windows-based software donations and academic alliances with Asian schools.

For example, the Redmond, Wash.-based company last month invested $46,000 in software to Singapore-based Republic Polytechnic's business solutions lab to encourage the development of enterprise applications.

In a related announcement Wednesday, Sun and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore renewed a five-year partnership aimed at spurring the development and commercialization of Java applications.

This alliance will focus on developing staffing capabilities, research and trials, as well as bringing Java-based Web applications developed in Singapore to global markets, said Tan Ching Yee, the authority's chief executive officer.

The two parties said the $57 million partnership is expected to create 500 jobs in the island-state and produce 50 new products. They hope to bring in more than $110 million in revenue from the commercialization of these products.

"IDA and Sun will fund half of the project costs while the remaining (amount) will be financed by industry partners," said Seah Lye Khim, the authority's deputy director of software and services industry development.

CNETAsia's Winston Chai reported from Singapore. ZDNet China's Ken Gao contributed to this report.