StarOffice wins analysts' support

IT managers could be tempted to adopt Sun Microsystems' StarOffice when Microsoft's licensing scheme for Microsoft Office takes...

IT managers could be tempted to adopt Sun Microsystems' StarOffice when Microsoft's licensing scheme for Microsoft Office takes effect in July, according to a report from analyst firm Giga Information Group.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga, said she is expecting to see a trickle rather than a flood of defectors, but she added, "The biggest obstacle to Microsoft's continued dominance is its new licensing programme. Input from Giga clients indicates that Microsoft's licensing programmes are spurring IT managers to explore other office productivity options, such as Staroffice 6.0."

Staroffice is a suite of programs based on an open source initiative instigated by Sun's release of the original Staroffice code into the public domain. This resulted in the recent free availability of Openoffice 6.0, which allows anyone to download the core Staroffice applications, including word processor, spreadsheet and presentation programs.

Staroffice adds to this other productivity features, including a relational database. The system also carries the right for the owner to access five concurrent copies of the software for personal use, which means no issues arise over a user having a version on both their desktop and laptop.

At a price of £52.99, which includes support, Staroffice undercuts Microsoft Office, which costs upwards of £180 for an upgrade. Staroffice also uses XML as its default file format and can read Microsoft documents.

According to Sun, Openoffice is currently on test with more than 1.8 million users in Fortune 500 companies. However, Quandt said that if Staroffice becomes too popular Microsoft is likely to change its licensing to become competitive again.

Giga's report contained the warning that Openoffice is not recommended for users who make use of Visual Basic macros or want a spreadsheet with pivot tables. It said the best scenario is a mixed environment of MS Office for the power user and Staroffice for those who do not need advanced features.

Read Giga report >>

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Sound off: Sun, Microsoft settlement irks some Last week, a SEC filing revealed a settlement between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, made last April, which would prevent the two companies from suing one another. The agreement included a provision excluding -- the open source branch of Sun's StarOffice project -- from liability coverage. Media sources immediately pointed out that Microsoft would have the opportunity to sue users. Did Sun sell open source users down river? asked four open source experts -- Jeremy White, CEO of CodeWeavers, leading backer of the Wine project; Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica, a consulting company that helps enterprises take advantage of open source software; Sam Hiser, co-author of Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop and GNU/Linux consultant and migration specialist in NYC, and contributor to; and Brenno DeWinter, a Linux consultant in the Netherlands and author of a forthcoming book on Linux in practice -- to sound off about the settlement and what it could mean for users of the open source Office alternative.

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