Sun Microsystems announced today that its long-awaited new version of its Solaris operating system would be priced to compete strongly against Microsoft Windows. In fact, in contrast to the expensive XP, Sun plans to offer its operating system for free:
After investing roughly $500 million and spending years of development time on its next-generation operating system, Sun Microsystems Inc. on Monday will announce an aggressive price for the software – free. …
“Hewlett Packard sells a printer at a low price and makes a lot of money on printer cartridges. Gillette gives you the razor and makes a lot of money on the blades,” said Scott McNealy, Sun’s chief executive. “There are different ways to drive market penetration.”
Solaris 10 will be unveiled Monday at an event in San Jose, though it won’t be formally released until the end of January. It will work on more than 270 computer platforms running on chips from Sun, Intel Corp. or Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
The price of earlier versions of Solaris typically ran between hundreds and thousands of dollars – depending on the system that was being run by the software, said Tom Goguen, Sun’s vice president of operating platforms.
Sun also has promised make the underlying code of Solaris available under an open-source license, though the details have not been released. With access to the code, Solaris users will be able to take advantage of its features when developing their own software and systems.
If successful, the struggling Sun might just eclipse Microsoft on its core product and vault back into the top tier of tech firms. It would hoist Microsoft on its own petard, as Bill Gates swamped the competition for Internet supremacy by offering its browser for free. Microsoft buried Netscape with this marketing ploy, and only recently has Mozilla begun to grab a toehold on operating systems. (I use the new Firefox 1.0, and prior to that have used Mozilla for almost a year.)
I’ve never seen Solaris before, so I have no idea how compatible it is with existing software such as Firefox/Mozilla, the Microsft Office suite, and so on. If Solaris X is completely compatible with Windows software — which seems unlikely — Microsoft has a huge problem on its hands.