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Commentary: Prepare to make some concessions with StarOffice

Businesses have to consider the extent to which they will need to manage the incompatibility between the new software and existing document standards.

By Chris LeTocq, Gartner Analyst

Gartner believes businesses looking for a fat-client office package evaluate Microsoft Office, followed by Lotus SmartSuite and Corel WordPerfect Office before considering Sun's StarOffice 5.1.

The major advantage of StarOffice

See news story:
Sun finds new backers for StarOffice
is that Sun Microsystems does not charge for the software. But "free" is misleading; Sun does provide fee-based support for businesses with more than 100 StarOffice seats under the SunSpectrum service contracts.

Conversion costs from Microsoft Office could outweigh the per-seat license fee advantage.

Businesses evaluating new or upgraded office software such as StarPortal, which is based on StarOffice functionality, have to consider the extent to which they will need to manage, and the cost of managing, the incompatibility between the new software and existing internal and external document standards.

Key to this assessment is the degree to which the incompatibility is expected to extend beyond document formatting to embedded macros, database and presentation formats and custom applications.

In businesses prepared to manage the incompatibilities of a non-Microsoft product, it is important that effective documentation and tutorials support the range of features in StarOffice.

The documentation, help structure and tutorial capability of StarOffice are not adequate. For example, the English-language documentation is translated from the original German-language documentation and can be difficult to read.

There is no built-in transition training for users familiar with other applications, and the tutorial included in the help system is inadequate.

Sun is developing Web-based training tools and working on the documentation for the next release, but the current state of these capabilities is such as to remove StarOffice from consideration in all but the most budget-constrained businesses.

(For related commentary on StarOffice training, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.