Sun Microsystems Inc. Tuesday launched the latest assault on the proprietary Microsoft Word document format by offering a new Sun Grid utility service that will convert Word files into ODF (open document format).
Another Sun Grid utility will convert text files into audio files for podcasts or for playback on Web sites, said Tom Goguen, vice president with Suns software group.
Sun is offering the service so enterprises "will no longer be locked" into a single vendors proprietary document format," Goguen said.
ODF is an XML-based open standard file format developed by the OASIS Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards]Internet industry standards group.
Sun wants to provide a way to give enterprises an alternative to the widely used Microsoft Word document format because companies "become enslaved to a single vendor if they tied to a single vendor format," he said. "We dont think this is a good situation,"
Conversion to the ODF standard will give enterprises "control over their data" and greater choice in the office productivity applications that they can use, Goguen said.
ODF is supported by Suns StarOffice and the OpenOffice desktop productivity suites, he noted.
The State of Massachusetts recently announced that it would adopt ODF as a standard for government agencies.
Sun will deliver the document conversion service "for a variety of formats including Word documents," he said. "We want to highlight the Word documents because that is where the majority of data is locked up today," Goguen said.
The service will give companies with older versions of Microsoft Windows the option of shifting to open source desktop application suites rather than upgrade to the latest version of Office, he noted.
"By adopting this oasis standard we believe we are engendering competition in this space," which in turn will drive greater innovation in the industry, Goguen said.
The conversion service also represents a new job for Suns grid utility, which is a massive array of Sun servers designed to perform compute-intensive data processing tasks.
Sun announced the Grid utility service in early 2005, in which it will give customers on-demand access to grids processing power at the rate of $1 per CPU hour as well as the Sun Grid storage array.
However, Goguen said he didnt have specific pricing for these new file conversion services until they officially go live.
Customers can expect that Sun will continue to announce additional Sun Grid utility services in the weeks and months ahead, he said.
However, he said the pricing would reflect the same level of simplicity and transparency that Sun expressed in its basic charge for Grid computing services of $1 per CPU hour.
Any consumer with access to a Web browser and with a credit card account will be able to upload documents to the Sun Grid for conversion to ODF, Goguen said.
Sun also plans to make a text-to-audio conversion service available within the next 30 days.
This service will take any text-based content, including Web site or Weblog content and convert it to an .mp3 file that can be played back as a podcast or as audio content for people with visual impairments.