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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 OpenOffice.org, 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.