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StarOffice gains native Mac support

The latest version of Sun's cut-rate productivity suite can also read--but not write--to the latest Office file formats.

With its latest version, Sun Microsystems is adding native Mac support to its StarOffice productivity suite.

StarOffice 9 is the first version with native Mac support, but just one of many products that aims to be a low-cost alternative to Microsoft Office. Sun Microsystems

The software, a distant rival to Microsoft's dominant Office package, sells for $35 to individuals and $25 for each user inside a business.

StarOffice 9 is open-source and its code is shared with 3.0, which was released last month.

In addition to adding the Apple support, StarOffice 9 can also read the Open XML file formats that Microsoft introduced with Office 2007, but StarOffice cannot write files back into those formats.

Sun may add that ability if the market requires or requests it, said StarOffice product manager Iyer Venkatesan, but there are no immediate plans to add the feature, he said.

Other file formats supported include the Open Document Format as well as PDFs, which can be read and edited.

The launch of StarOffice comes even as the company prepares to shed thousands of jobs as part of a new wave of cost-cutting. StarOffice also faces increasing competition at the low end of the productivity market with a range of products, including Google Docs, ThinkFree Office, free and low-cost versions of Microsoft Works as well as forthcoming Web-based versions of Microsoft Office.

A study, released on Friday, found Microsoft Word was used by about half of all Internet users, while about 5 percent used OpenOffice. The study, by ClickStream Technologies, found about 1 percent used Google Docs.