Sun Notches Linux Win With Chinese Govt

Sun announces a technology partnership with two IT ministries in the Chinese government as well as the formation of a new company to deliver a China-branded software stack based on Sun's Java Desktop System.

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Monday will announce a technology partnership with two IT ministries in the Chinese government as well as the formation of a new company, China Standard Software, to deliver a China-branded software stack based on Suns Java Desktop System.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy will make the announcement during his Monday morning keynote address titled "Scaling Out: Sun Applies Innovation to Volume Technologies" at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas.

The announcement comes just days after Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president for software at Sun, said the company was pursuing a new "per citizen" pricing model for the upcoming Java Desktop System, to allow government agencies to distribute the system to their citizens.

In an interview ahead of McNealys keynote, Curtis Sasaki, vice president of desktop solutions at Sun, in Santa Clara, Calif., told eWEEK that the Chinese government is hoping to roll the solution out around the beginning of next year.

A Sun executive who asked not to be named told eWEEK that while the current Java Desktop System is powered by SuSE Linux, the Chinese deal will probably have a custom Linux Standards Base-compliant Linux operating system that will be supported by the Chinese government and its IT partners.

But Sasaki was evasive when asked what Linux distribution will power the Chinese desktop system, saying Suns code is very portable. He did, however, indicate that it may not be SuSE Linux, saying, "While we are not wedded to any Linux distribution per se, we do have a partnership and contract with SuSE."

The Chinese agencies and their partners will provide all of the infrastructure, support and marketing services around the offering, he said, adding that the Chinese government already has a strong initiative around Linux, and this makes it easier for them to get the solution to market quickly. Microsoft Windows and Office are "just too expensive for most ordinary citizens," he said.

The new company, China Standard Software, will be funded by a couple of existing Chinese IT companies as well as by two of the information technology ministries within China, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Information Industry, which were responsible for setting the IT standard for the government and education in the country.

Sun has no investment stake in that company: "Our contribution is really the IP and technology base," Sasaki said, adding that the Chinese government is looking to deliver software that is affordable to its citizens as well as create a standard for use in government and education.

Next page: Bridging Chinas digital divide.