Sun's StarOffice Suite Offers Native Mac OS X Support

StarOffice OS operating system

StarOffice is Sun's package of word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database and drawing applications marketed as an alternative to Microsoft Office. The software is compatible with Microsoft Office through its ability to read Microsoft Office Open XML files.

About 75 percent of StarOffice sales are through channel partners, said Iyer Venkatesan, StarOffice senior product manager. The software has an installed base of some 50 million.

Last week, as part of a major restructuring that included planned layoffs of up to 6,000 workers, Sun reorganized its software operations with the StarOffice software becoming part of a new Cloud Computing and Developer Platforms group.

StarOffice 9 is the first version of the software suite that's been available as a native Mac application. That's significant given that Macintosh computers have been gaining market share against PCs in recent years.

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The StarOffice applications use the same core binaries as, a set of open-source personal productivity applications that's also the foundation for other office application suites including IBM's free Lotus Symphony applications.

An enhanced "Start Center" makes launching StarOffice easier, Venkatesan said. The suite now includes Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail client and Lightning extension for calendaring. Other improvements include basic workbook sharing and an increase in the number of rows in the Calc spreadsheet (up to 1,024 from 256), improved notes annotation capabilities in Writer, and a new presentation console in the Presentation application.

Sun is also offering a set of free applet downloads, such as a Wiki publishing tool, that work with the StarOffice Extension Framework developers use to build extensions to the applications.

Sun is also dropping the price of StarOffice to $34.95 -- StarOffice 8 was priced at $69.95. Volume pricing starts at $25 per user. Sun is also offering subscription pricing for the first time, priced at $10 per user per year. "I expect this subscription option to be a particularly big play through channels [compared to] traditional perpetual license models," Vankatesan said.