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Sun finds new backers for StarOffice

The deals--while not with top-tier computer makers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard or Compaq--put a tiny dent in the dominance of Microsoft's Office family.

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Stephen Shankland
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Sun Microsystems' StarOffice suite

Gartner analyst Chris LeTocq says businesses have to consider the extent to which they will need to manage the incompatibility between StarOffice and existing document standards.

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has won a place on computers from Everex and Emachines, but the achievement is tempered by the limited clout of the new partners and the fact the software will show up only on selected models.

The deals--while not with top-tier computer makers such as Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard or Compaq Computer--put a tiny dent in the dominance of Microsoft's Office family. Sun is actively trying to recruit other computer makers into the program, spokesman Russ Castronovo said.

In a third deal, Sony will include the software with its lowest-end J100 Vaio desktop in North America. Unlike Emachines and Everex, Sony will package only a StarOffice CD and won't preinstall the software, Sony spokesman David Yang said.

Though Sun announced the Emachines deal today, the company started selling computers with StarOffice six months ago and includes it on several models today, spokeswoman Pattie Adams said.

Emachines, which specializes in ultra-cheap computers, is one of many computer makers looking for ways to cut costs as much as possible. Sun's free office suite offers another cost-cutting opportunity.

Everex will preinstall StarOffice on machines sold through Best Buy stores, but most of the company's sales go to resellers, which must specifically request the software, said Everex spokesman Wells Chen. Everex is putting StarOffice on the Best Buy computers "to see the reaction and response," he said.

StarOffice runs on computers operating on Linux, Sun's Solaris and Windows. Sun distributes the software for free, pinning most of its hopes on an upcoming version that will run on servers and can be accessed by a wide variety of devices, including desktop PCs and Palm handheld computers.

The deals come six months after Sun signed a deal to have StarOffice preinstalled on some Gateway desktop and laptop computers. In that deal, Sun can refer customers who want Windows computers to Gateway, which has a variety of models with the software preinstalled, spokesman David Harrah said.

In October, Sun plans to release source code--the underlying programming instructions--for the desktop version of StarOffice. The server version of the software has been delayed.