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Sun brings StarOffice into desktop Solaris orbit

The company's productivity software, a competitor to Microsoft's Office, debuts on Sun's desktop version of Unix.

Sun Microsystems has introduced a version of StarOffice tailored to desktop PCs running Solaris, its Unix-based operating system.

The release on Wednesday of the productivity software, named "StarOffice 7 for Solaris x86," comes as Sun tries to position its Solaris x86 variation for Intel-based computers as a fully fledged alternative to Microsoft's Windows.

Solaris x86 has lost ground in recent years to Linux, an open-source, Unix-like OS, prompting Sun to waver in its support of its own OS.

But the Intel version of Solaris has recently become a cornerstone of Sun's comeback strategy, with the Santa Clara, Calif. company pushing it as a stable, mature alternative to Microsoft software.

While Solaris is predominantly found on servers, Sun is promoting the x86 version as a desktop alternative. Later this year, it plans to release a Solaris edition of its Java Desktop System. Java Desktop System is the company's subscription-based software bundle intended to serve as a low-cost alternative to running Windows PCs. Initial versions of Java Desktop System machines have been Linux-based.

"Sun continues to invest resources in its engineering team to deliver compelling, low-cost computing solutions for our customers," John Loiacono, vice president of operating platforms at Sun, said in a statement.

StarOffice for Solaris x86 is available for download now, priced at $80 per license.

Sun also announced a major corporate purchase of StarOffice. United India Insurance, one of the largest insurers in India, purchased licenses for 10,000 seats of StarOffice to replace Microsoft Office.

StarOffice and, its open-source sibling, have posed a steady but growing challenge the past few years to the dominance of Microsoft's Office in productivity software, a class of applications that includes common work tools such as a word processor and a spreadsheet program.