OpenOffice, an open-source-code application suite, can now be downloaded for free from www.openoffice.org.
The software, OpenOffice.org 1.0, shares the same source code as Sun Microsystems' upcoming StarOffice 6.0, slated to ship later this month. But Sun will charge, although it's not clear how much, for its version, which will add a database and be offered with fee-based support. OpenOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software.
Open-source aficionados hope this suite will be a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, which dominates in Windows and Macintosh markets. OpenOffice is now available for Linux, PPC Linux, Solaris and Windows with ports for Mac OS X, Irix, FreeBSD, Net BSD in the works, a spokeswoman said. The applications are file-format compatible with Microsoft Office 95 through XP, she added.
Observers said Linux needs a viable suite that is file-format compatible with Microsoft Office in order to gain traction on mainstream desktops. Open-source fans say this offering is a "drop-in replacement" for Microsoft Office, which owns more than 90 percent market share in Windows desktop productivity applications.