Taking the per-employee pricing model it introduced last September a great leap forward, Sun has said it's readying a per-citizen licensing plan for countries using its Java Enterprise System and Java Desktop System software.
Under the new plan, customers such as government agencies and possibly international aid groups would pay one of three per-citizen rates for software licenses annually. The rate would be tied to a country's ranking by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which puts countries into one of three classifications: more developed, less developed and least developed.
A government looking to provide email or a Web application to its citizens would pay around 40 cents per citizen in a country classified as "least developed." In a "more developed" country such as the US, pricing would be closer to $US5 per citizen, executive director for Java Enterprise Systems and security marketing at Sun, Steve Borcich,said.
The licensing model would also depend on whether a customer buys server or desktop software. The Java Enterprise System - a bundle of Sun's server software products, including its directory, application and portal servers - could be installed only by the government that signed the deal. Therefore a server license purchased by a national government wouldn't cover municipal governments.
Any citizen of the licensed country would have the right to install the Java Desktop System, which includes StarOffice applications and a Linux operating system.
Sun expects to roll out the new licensing plan in time for its JavaOne developer conference in San Francisco in June.
It would essentially rely on an honour system to enforce its desktop licenses, said Borcich, who acknowledged that it would be very difficult to control software piracy under the system.
"We don't want to advocate piracy, and we'd certainly like to make revenue," he said. "But if someone wants to pirate software, we would rather they pirate ours, and Java in general, than some other competing technology."
Per-citizen licensing is a novel approach to capturing more of the $US13.9 billion worldwide government software market, as governments increasingly focus on open-source software, an analyst at Gartner, Rishi Sood, said.
"There certainly needs to be a reorientation of how US technology companies can look to [developing] countries and adopt their products and services to meet [those countries'] unique economic circumstances," Sood said.
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