The company unveils a streamlined version of its free office software, due in the first half of 2002, that's aimed to gain ground against Microsoft's Office.
The company had already touted the multi-platform software, which runs on machines using the Solaris operating system, Linux or Microsoft Windows, to Linux fans in August. The new version replaces StarOffice 5.2, which was criticized as sluggish and hefty.
But with its availability as a free download, the product had some appeal as a competitor against Microsoft's Office software. Sun made the software free just after acquiring StarOffice from Hamburg, Germany-based Star Division in 1999. It then released the source code for the software, so that anyone could modify and distribute it.
And a licensing change that Microsoft had set to go into effect Monday could provide further impetus for StarOffice. That change could result in some Microsoft's business customers paying up to 107 percent more for Office XP than they would have under earlier licensing policies.
The new version of StarOffice is simplified to make file exchange easier. The software has support for XML file formats; more robust Microsoft Office import and export filters, including support for Office XP; and redesigned dialog boxes, new templates and graphics. Korean, Japanese and Chinese versions are also available.
But StarOffice 6.0's biggest advantage may be the current constraints on IT spending.
Microsoft's standard Office XP package retails for $479.
Sun said that some 17,000 customers have already registered for the StarOffice 6.0 beta program. The software's general release is slated for the first half of 2002.