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Sun saturated with StarOffice advice

The company plans to cut off downloads of its StarOffice 6 beta software on Dec. 31 to prepare for its final release in 2002.

Sun Microsystems will cut off downloads of the StarOffice 6 beta software on Dec. 31 as the company prepares for a final release in the first half of 2002, the company said Wednesday.

"We've got all the feedback we can handle here," spokesman Russ Castronovo said. "We are at saturation point. I think we've satisfied the requirements of the program."

StarOffice, a competitor to Microsoft Office, runs on Solaris and Linux operating systems as well as Windows, but it has been criticized for being unwieldy.

The new version 6 drops an e-mail program, moves to open XML file formats and separates the remaining components--word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and other packages--into standalone programs.

Sun bought the software when it acquired Star Division for $73.5 million in 1999 and offered StarOffice as a free download. Later, the company released the source code for the software, hoping to build a cooperative developer community such as the group that has pushed the Linux operating system into the mainstream.

The open-source site that hosts development is called OpenOffice. Even after Sun cancels its download program, the software can be downloaded from OpenOffice or purchased in several CD-ROM versions.

Sun and other StarOffice fans hope their product will become more popular as customers balk at the cost of running Microsoft Office, which has by far the largest chunk of the market.

The cost of developing the software is steep, though; Sun decided earlier this year to leave development of a Macintosh version up to the open-source community.

Sun started offering glimpses of the new version 6 earlier this year.