Sun moves StarOffice into beta

Companies looking for alternatives to Microsoft Corp.’s Office software suite can now beta test Sun Microsystems Inc.’s StarOffice Version 6.0, Sun said Tuesday in a statement.

StarOffice is a suite of office productivity applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, Web-publishing and database functions that Sun purchased from Hamburg, Germany-based Star Division Corp. last year.

The software is available as a free download from Sun’s Web site, or on Web sites such as Inc. for a list price of US$39.99, which includes documentation and instructions.

StarOffice is also available as an open-source download on, under the principles of the GPL (GNU Public License). Under that agreement, users can download the latest build of the software, and manipulate the source code as needed for their environments as long as they post the changes on, which is sponsored by Sun. This freedom to configure does not apply to licensed portions of the software, such as the spell-checker, said Russ Castronovo, spokesperson for Sun.

Many in the open-source community look to StarOffice as the product that might stand a chance of competing with Microsoft Office for desktop marketshare, but Castronovo said the software “is not positioned as a straight-up competitor. It’s an alternative for smaller companies and institutions that simply can’t afford to pay Microsoft’s licensing fees.”

Sun has had more interest from larger companies in the StarOffice product, but it is not actively seeking those customers, Castronovo said.

The suite is compatible across multiple operating systems, including Microsoft’s Windows line, Sun’s Solaris versions, and various flavors of Linux. Files can be edited and saved across the different formats through the use of XML (Extensible Markup Language). StarOffice is the first product to output XML files, according to Castronovo.

Sun announced earlier this year that the new version of StarOffice would run as several smaller, separate applications instead of one cumbersome software program, that Sun itself termed “monolithic.” Old versions of StarOffice launched the word processing, spreadsheet, and other applications simultaneously, slowing older systems significantly.

The product is being beta tested by 17,000 potential customers, and is expected to be available for general release in the first half of 2002. International pricing was not available.

Sun, in Palo Alto, Calif., is at