Sun Microsystems took another big step towards reinventing itself as an open source software, systems and services company on Wednesday announcing that key software tools will in the future be provided at no cost to developers and others.

The California-based company, which began offering customers its Solaris operating as free open source software earlier this year, said it will now provide its Java Enterprise System, Sun N1 Management software, and Sun developer tools available at no cost for both development and deployment.

At the same time, Sun said it is integrating all of this software along with the Solaris operating system into the Solaris Enterprise System, to form what it claims is, “the only comprehensive and open infrastructure software platform available today.”

The move is part of the a strategy spearheaded by Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s president and chief operating officer, to halt the decline in the company’s revenues and exploit the demand for business customers advanced software and services.

“This is not about eliminating revenues, it is about eliminating barriers to revenue growth,” he said.

Sun is betting that software developers in particular will be encouraged to use the company’s Java and other development tools if they do not have to pay licence fees for them. It believes this in turn will fuel demand from big companies for Sun’s application software and services as an alternative to Microsoft Windows or Linux-based systems.

“With this announcement, Sun is creating the no-cost and open alternative to the Windows environment,” the company said.

Mr Schwartz noted that Sun’s decision to offer the Solaris operating system without cost and to launch a range of lower cost servers based on Intel microprocessors had also been greeted with some skepticism, but that both moves had proved successful.

He described the move as “the next logical step’ in a five year strategy that has transformed Sun from a largely proprietary IT system vendor into an open-source based group competing with companies like Dell and Hewlett Packard. Sun currently has about 3.4m Solaris users and nearly one million Java Enterprise System subscribers.

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