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Sun Says They'll Convert Word Files to ODF
Tuesday, November 08 2005 @ 02:28 PM EST

Since Microsoft would rather fight than switch to supporting ODF, Sun is stepping up to the plate, according to eWeek:
Sun Microsystems Inc. will be 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 Sun's software group.

Sun is offering the service so enterprises will no longer be locked into a single vendor's proprietary document format. . . .

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.

The Sun announcement is here. This is, I gather, the first fruits of the meeting in Armonk Andy Updegrove told us about (note the nice things he says about some of your comments on Groklaw), and it's wonderful news. For one thing, it's useful for the disabled. It means that you can take any text file and Sun will turn it into an MP3 for you to play back as audio. Of course, you can also play it back as a podcast.

The announcement is also proof, to me, that Microsoft's old business practices will sink their ship, if they don't improve. I think Microsoft underestimates the deep disgust that people feel for bully tactics. SCO made that same mistake. If you haven't read David Berlind's partial transcript of the public hearing in Massachusetts, I hope you will. By the way, I keep trying to tell folks something important: comes to us under the LGPL, not the GPL, so all that FUD at the hearing is just that, or a simple misunderstanding. It's also a complex misunderstanding, because ODF is a format, not software. It's not an application under a license, as Berlind points out:

ODF is a specification. It is not software like or Microsoft Office are. Like with other specifications that are open standards (ie: HTTP, TCP/IP, HTML, XML, etc.), there is no source code to license and therefore, open source (which applies to source code only, thus open "source") simply doesn't apply. Much the same way Microsoft's support of the open standard HTTP in IIS and its support of TCP/IP in Windows never forced that company to reveal the source code behind those products, support of ODF would never force Microsoft to reveal the source code behind Microsoft Office.

So much for that FUD.

SCO is now moving into the mobile field to try to stay afloat as a company, speaking of companies that underestimated how much we don't like bullies. According to the Hindustan Times, they hope to do well in India:

SCO's senior vice president of marketing, Tim Negris also announced company’s product roadmap and new markets that the company is entering for future growth.

Hailing India as the key market for SCO, Negris said the company saw a 40 per cent increase in revenues between 2004 and 2005 from this region.

Maybe they hope the gestank of SCO doesn't reach that far. They also got the mayor of Provo, Utah to try out Me Inc., free, I gather , according to what I'm told by someone in the local LUG, for his campaign messages. You get an email informing you you have a Shout from Mayor Lewis Billings, and there's a link to an MP3.

I hope Microsoft takes the SCO warning, and turns their ship around in time.

Updegrove shares some more details now from the Armonk meeting:

From the strategy breakout group: The strategy breakout group, predictably, covered a lot of ground. One of the discussions that may have the most immediate concrete results involved the possibility of additional companies making patent non-assertion commitments, either identical or similar to the non-assertion pledge already made by Sun. The effect would be not only to waive any actual patents claims that might be infringed, but also to augment the "aura" of ODF and signify determination among those committed to support ODF's success.

At the conference I attended, someone (who is not a lawyer) asserted that the patents commmons idea was useless. I totally disagreed, and I see I am not alone in recognizing its legal value. Lawyers don't come up with legal ideas that won't work. Well, not usually. "The GPL is unconstitutional" is a once in a lifetime comedy routine.

Here's the meat of the Sun press release, and I must say, I love the text to podcast idea, maybe for Groklaw. What do you think? Pricing to be announced when the project goes live in about a month, but at the moment the grid is available for only $1 an hour, and I'm guessing/hoping this may be less:


Sun Microsystems Adds Two New Services to Sun Grid Utility, Easing Transition to Emerging Web 2.0

New Free Retail Services Convert Text to Podcasts and Proprietary Microsoft Word Documents to Open Document Format

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - November 1, 2005 - Today, Sun Microsystems, Inc., (Nasdaq:SUNW) announced its intent to deliver on demand network services to convert documents from native proprietary formats such as Microsoft Office into the Open Document Format (ODF), the industry standard file format. In addition, Sun plans to deliver a service to convert text files to podcasts or audio files for playback at a later date. These introductions add more services to the growing catalog of grid services available via Sun's Grid Utility, and amplify Sun's commitment to deliver on its 24 year vision of "The Network Is The Computer".

Using the new Sun Grid service, virtually any consumer with a Web browser will be able to upload proprietary documents, and have them automatically converted to Open Document Format (ODF). The ODF is an XML-based industry standard file format specification for office productivity applications, including text, spreadsheet and graphical documents. ODF documents are readable by any ODF-enabled applications such as or StarOffice, and provide an open, neutral format for users seeking to make content available to the broadest set of audiences, platforms and devices. ODF was recently adopted by the State of Massachusetts for government usage. The Sun Grid Utility service will help simplify the process of converting documents from Microsoft Office to free and open alternatives that radically lower cost, promote cross-platform communications and help users with older versions of Microsoft Windows avoid the costs and risks associated with deploying a newer release of Windows.

In addition, Sun expects to make available within the next 30 days a retail service that generates audio podcasts from any text based content, such as weblog or web site. Podcasts allow users to subscribe to audio content for playback at a later date, and provide those with visual impairments an opportunity to have the Internet "read" to them without human assistance.

Both services will be accessible through a simple web user interface documents or URL's will be submitted, as photos are submitted to photo sharing services, and converted on the network as .odf or .mp3 files, accessible via any browser or appropriate application, such as or Apple's iPod.

"It is clear a second generation of the web is emerging, with a broad array of on demand services available freely and ubiquitously, tied not simply to a web browser, but to any application or device that connects to the Internet," said Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer for Sun Microsystems. "Built atop Sun's core innovations, from our industry standard Sun Fire servers, to the fastest growing open source operating system, Solaris, the Sun Grid Utility will spare consumers and enterprises alike from having to build complex infrastructures that are better delivered via a centrally shared service. Innovation will be a core differentiator for Sun, and for Sun's customers, in taking advantage of this next generation web."

The first of the Sun Grid utility services, announced nearly a year ago, is a basic high performance computing facility and currently available under a commercial contract. The ODF service is expected to be available soon on the Sun Grid Public Compute Utility, which opens access to everyone via a portal. The Public version of the Sun Grid is licensed under standard click through terms and purchasable by credit card, and the retail release will mark the industry's first true on-demand computing utility. Unlike traditional "on demand" models, marked more by structured financing and datacenter inventory management than true "computing services" such as eBay or, Sun's Grid offering can spare customers the need to build, manage, provision or power their own computers and storage devices. For tasks as diverse as rendering movies, exploring for oil, or running complex spreadsheet calculations, high performance computing is one of the fastest growing market segments in the IT marketplace. Priced at $1 per CPU-hour1, with no minimum commitment, the Sun Grid utility will provide supercomputing facilities, with no upfront investment, to users and applications alike.

Sun plans to work with the open source community to enhance the and StarOffice platforms to leverage these services as native features. With more than 50 million downloads around the world, and StarOffice are the most rapidly growing productivity suites on the Internet.

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