Taiwan schools suffused with Sun software

Sun donates more than $1.6 million worth of desktop productivity software to a Taiwan university in an attempt to break into the country's education market.

Sun Microsystems has donated more than $1.6 million worth of desktop productivity software to a university in Taiwan in an attempt to break into the country's education market.

The company this week gave Chinese versions of StarOffice 6.0 to the National Cheng Kung University for use by teachers and students. Sun said it will also donate copies of the software to other universities, high schools and primary schools in Taiwan, although no time frame was provided.

StarOffice 6.0, which carries a price tag of $76, represents Sun's effort to take on Microsoft's overwhelmingly dominant Office software suite.

Previous versions of StarOffice have been available as a free download since Sun acquired the StarOffice product line in 1999, but the company said earlier this year that it would charge for the new version and provide better support for customers using it.

The timing of Sun's gesture is opportune, coming as Microsoft is being investigated for violating Taiwan's fair trade laws. In addition, Taiwan's National Teachers' Association has called on Microsoft not to bill educational institutions.

"If Microsoft pressures schools to pay exorbitant fees on the premise of protecting intellectual property rights, the association will lobby international teachers' groups to boycott Microsoft products," said Chang Hui-shan, director of the National Teachers' Association.

Microsoft sells an educational version of Office for $149.

CNETAsia's Mandy Chung reported from Taipei.

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