Sun Microsystems offers free release of StarOffice open-source, thin-client suite

Sun Microsystems offers free release of StarOffice open-source, thin-client suite

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

Sun Microsystems Inc. is giving away StarOffice 5.1, which incorporates many of the functions of Microsoft Office and other leading PC productivity suites.

Downloadable from Sun's Web site, at, StarOffice runs under Microsoft Windows 9x, Windows NT, SunSoft Solaris, Linux and IBM OS/2. It incorporates programs similar to the word processing, spreadsheet, graphics, database, calendar, e-mail and other components familiar to suite users. Sun representatives said StarOffice files are seamlessly compatible with Office file formats.

The free release of the open-source, thin-client suite targets business, government and education users, Sun chairman and chief executive officer Scott McNealy said. 'Why not have the government use this to lower our taxes a little?' he said last week.

Sun executives announced their acquisition of the German company Star Division GmbH, which recently moved to Fremont, Calif. Star Division's founder, Marco Boerries, originally created the StarOffice suite for Linux. Besides its suite components, StarOffice can publish Web pages and has an Internet newsgroup reader.

The buy dovetails with Sun's highly network-centered strategy, said Ed Zander, Sun's president and chief operating officer. The portal application-hosting approach fits in with the growing trend toward Web hosting of such services as enterprise resource planning and supply chain management, he said.

Sun will license the StarOffice source code to software developers and Internet providers to make functions such as word processing accessible through Web browsers, much like today's free Web e-mail services.

This is no start

Sun vice president Gene Banman called StarOffice 5.1 'a mature, stable commercial product. It is not a start-up product.' It has 4 million users worldwide, Zander said. Linux distributors Caldera Systems Inc. of Orem, Utah, and Red Hat Software Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C., have bundled earlier StarOffice versions with their Linux products.

The 65M StarOffice download is free, or users can buy a CD-ROM from Sun for $9.95 plus shipping and handling. The company will charge for technical support after an introductory period.

McNealy brushed aside potential privacy concerns about the StarOffice portal-hosting strategy.

'How private is your laptop when you put it through an airport X-ray device?' he said. 'The floppy drive is the biggest security hole in any organization.'

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