Sun Ships MS-Compatible StarOffice 8

In a bid to grab market share from Microsoft, Sun today launched the latest version of its desktop productivity suite, StarOffice 8. The offering represents the first upgrade for Sun’s office software in about two years — one that is designed with improved compatibility with Microsoft Office.

StarOffice 8 software includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database capabilities. Based on open-source technology, OpenOffice.org, StarOffice 8 runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris operating systems.

“The StarOffice 8 software not only allows users to transparently read and write files in Microsoft Office formats, its new default OpenDocument file format ensures their data won’t be bound to a single product, now or in the future,” said John Loiacono, executive vice president of Sun’s Software Group.

Working With Microsoft

StarOffice 8 makes its debut about 18 months after Sun and Microsoft announced a development partnership and a pact not to sue each other over patent disputes. Sun said by using built-in MS Office file analyzer, users are better able to manage migration from Microsoft Office.

Sun said StarOffice 8 software further improves import and export of Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, including password-protected MS Word and MS Excel files and presentations with complex animations, autoshapes and slide transitions.

StarOffice 8 software also provides features that look more familiar to Microsoft Office users,according to the company. The Format Paintbrush allows transfer of styles from one section of a document to another, and the Impress multi-pane user interface allows users to create presentations.

Ode to OASIS

StarOffice 8 software uses the Open Document Format for Office Applications, the OASIS open standard designed to make sharing files easier.

Analysts said the OpenDocument format provides improved interoperability and enhanced programmability and is increasingly adopted by government agencies,including the European Union and the state of Massachusetts.

“StarOffice 8 is the first StarOffice that’s based on the 2.0 OpenOffice, which is really quite an improvement over the predecessor,” Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider. “So the Microsoft compatibility is certainly part of this, but there’s a lot of other changes to the look, feel and reliability of StarOffice.”

Reducing Costs

StarOffice software is available in seven languages and StarSuite software is available in another four. The suggested list price for the packaged software product is US$99.95 and the download price is $69.95.

Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president of system software research at IDC, said organizations are seeking out ways to both reduce their costs of using information technologies and also make their IT investments provide real, measurable benefits in a very short term.

“Software, such as Sun’s StarOffice 8, could neatly fit into both of these requirements,” Kusnetzky said. “It could be used to reduce the software costs for each of their many desktop or mobile computers while also keeping the staff-related costs in check.”

Dissecting Sun’s Strategy

Sun also announced today new relationships with leading software publishers Encore Software, Avanquest Software and a continuing relationship with SourceNext to make StarOffice 8 software available to consumers and businesses worldwide.

Analysts said there is little doubt that StarOffice 8 is a good step forward in terms of feature sets, compatibility and cost, and the retail network has expanded. But the question is how the software fits into the company’s strategic direction.

“Sun has retreated from the Linux Desktop and is now very focused on the remote desktop or the thin client desktop,” Haff said. “So it’s a little bit unclear exactly where StarOffice and OpenOffice fits. I think everyone would like to hear about Sun’s plans.”

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