OEMs cast StarOffice in select PCs

It may never have the same impact as Microsoft Corp.'s Office software suite, but Sun Microsystems Inc.

It may never have the same impact as Microsoft Corp.'s Office software suite, but Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice productivity suite is gaining a small following as four OEMs agreed to preinstall the software on PCs.

In addition, the GNOME (GNU Object Modeling Environment) Foundation, a group of industry leaders dedicat ed to creating a common desktop environment for Linux, last week said it would use Sun's OpenOffice.org productiv ity suite as a basis for its GNOME Office.

As a result, corporate IT managers who are looking for an alternative to Microsoft Office will have some options that will streamline implementation of the StarOffice productivity software.

The four vendors—Gateway Inc., Emachines Inc., Everex Systems Inc. and Sony Electronics Inc.—will preinstall and bundle StarOffice 5.2 on some of their desktop and laptop computers. The suite's applications include word processing, a spreadsheet, presentation graphics, drawing and photo editing, a database, HTML creation and editing, e-mail, a browser, and calendaring. It runs on Linux, Solaris and Windows.

San Diego-based Gateway will preinstall StarOffice on its desktop and notebook systems for Sun customers. Emachines, of Irvine, Calif., will target it at consumers and small businesses.

Everex, of Fremont, Calif., will preinstall the suite on its Step and Ex plora product lines for corpo rate, technical and small-office custom ers. Sony, of Park Ridge, N.J., will bundle it on its Vaio desktop line in North America.

Some industry observers were not impressed with news of the bundling agreements. Chris Le Tocq, an analyst with Gartner Group Inc., wondered how much time, effort and money these vendors will invest to market StarOffice and whether Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., is offering them financial incentives when their customers commit to StarOffice.

"Sun has a long way to go with Star Office, and it has always been positioned by Sun more as a front end for Star Portal," said Le Tocq, who is based here.

GNOME Office, announced along with the GNOME Foundation at LinuxWorld Expo here last week, will build on OpenOffice.org, the version of Star Office that Sun released to the open-source community last month.

Le Tocq is impressed with Sun's OpenOffice.org initiative. "[Sun] is starting to react to Microsoft's .Net strategy," he said. "It is establishing standards on the Web for sharing information."


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