Sun Microsystems Inc. announced Wednesday that the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has selected its Java Desktop System to be part of a ministry initiative to promote the use of open-source desktops in educational institutions. The initiative is part of METIs efforts to stimulate the growth of an open-source community within Japan and competitive alternatives to Microsoft Corp. on the desktop.
While the win for Sun is certainly not a major blow to Microsofts dominance on the desktop in Japan, it is further evidence of how some governments have grown resentful of Microsofts grip on the desktop market—and are looking to Sun and others to give them another option. And the endorsement wasnt easily gained—it came after more than a year of evaluation by METI and Japans Information-technology Promotion Agency (IPA).
“This is another major government working with Sun on a viable desktop alternative,” said Dan Miller, president of Sun Japan, in an interview with eWEEK.com. “METI didnt just list us—they selected JDS and Turbolinux as viable desktops out of a field of 10.”
While no purchase of Sun software was made, JDS is now one of only two open desktop environments being actively endorsed by METI—the other is from Japan-based Turbolinux Inc. And the IPA is overseeing a pilot rollout of JDS to five middle and junior high schools in Japan, serving approximately 2,000 students.
“They havent bought any software,” said Miller. “But theyre endorsing an open-source desktop community.”
METI—the equivalent of the Commerce Department and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States—kicked off its promotion of open-source software last year and has thus far budgeted 2 billion yen to promote the development of open source in Japan through the IPA. The ministrys aim is to give the government more viable choices in the desktop market for procurement, and to reduce Japans reliance on Microsoft Windows—which the ministry sees as a threat to security.
“METI believes that when open source software is used more pervasively, starting with initiatives like this one, the open source community becomes more active and will promote increased choice of information technology in Japan,” Takashi Kume, deputy director of the Information Services Industry Division, Commerce and Information Policy Bureau of METI, said in a prepared statement.
While the METI win is just a foot in the door with the Japanese government, Miller said, “There are a number of communities supporting our foot in the door. The Japanese government is not a big friend of the company thats got them pinned down. The developer community in Japan currently has no choice but to go to the Windows platform. And the PC manufacturers [in Japan] dont have a lot of choice about what they can put on their hardware right now.”
The partnership with METI is the second JDS partnership Sun has forged with an Asian government. Last year, Sun signed a deal with the Chinese government creating a joint venture to create a Chinese-branded version of JDS..