In an effort to get its StarOffice 7.0 productivity suite to more users, Sun has signed an agreement with AOL to preload the software on the desktop computers that AOL will offer customers.
Sun said it will provide StarOffice 7.0 to help AOL keep costs low and give users compatibility with Microsoft Office files - while giving Sun an important product showcase.
The software will be called AOL Office on the consumer desktop machines.
Iyer Venkatesan, a Sun desktop solutions product manager, said the companies began discussions on the deal about a year ago.
AOL will provide marketing and distribution for the entry-level computers, while Sun will provide the office suite and related support. "It's a good match," Venkatesan said.
"This AOL deal is getting us into the mainstream in the US market," he said.
"Here is a partner with expertise in the consumer space and which can get the word out to consumers. This is really a key win for StarOffice."
Laura DiDio, a software analyst at The Yankee Group, said the deal is a shrewd one for Sun. "In a Windows world, it is hard to get a toehold," she said. "But if you ink a deal with AOL with these $299 (£164) computers, that's a smart deal."
For most users, especially the consumers at whom the machines are aimed, StarOffice offers all of the features and usability they will need. "It's a nice, neat little package," DiDio said.
More importantly, by placing itself before AOL's base of 33 million global users, Sun could re-establish itself in the IT world after several tough years, she said.
"We're addressing the needs of the millions of (potential internet users) who are first-time PC buyers or novice computer users," Kenn Turner, general manager of AOL Key Audiences division, said.
Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld