Sun/Google and Adobe now gunning for Microsoft Office

Sun/Google and Adobe now gunning for Microsoft Office

Summary: Sun is expected to offer more details on Wednesday, August 15, on its deal with Google to distribute StarOffice as part of the Google Pack. Meanwhile, could Microsoft rival Adobe be readying an Office competitor of its own?


Whether Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a full-fledged Microsoft Office competitor is up for debate. But StarOffice, Sun's desktop-productivity suite, is definitely a head-to-head Office rival. And StarOffice distributed by Google? There's no way anyone could claim that isn't meant to be a direct shot across the Microsoft Office bow.

Over the weekend, Google began offering StarOffice for download as part of its Google Pack. Instead of charging the $70 per copy that Sun has levied for StarOffice, Google made the office suite available for free.

As the Google Operating System blog notes, the next logical step, from Sun/Google's perspective,

"would probably be the addition of a plug-in that lets you synchronize local documents with Google Docs & Spreadsheets, so you can have the best of the both worlds: edit complicated documents offline, collaborate and store files securely online. For now, StarOffice is integrated with Google Search and Google Desktop."

I asked Sun what gives. I received the following response from a spokesperson:

"Sun is soon going to make an important announcement regarding Sun's StarOffice software, and it is related to the questions you asked (which was, "What's up with Google distributing StarOffice for free"?). The announcement is likely to have significant impact in the industry about the adoption of Open Document Format and availability of free MS Office-compatible comprehensive office suite."

Wasn't this Sun-Google StarOffice arrangement the big announcement expected from the Dynamic Microsoft-fighting Duo back in 2005 (that never materialized)? Sounds like it to me.

I'm not sure why Sun is waiting until August 15 to reveal more particulars, since Google basically preannounced the deal by making StarOffice available for download. Guess we'll hear more tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Office might get yet another credible competitor in the not-too-distant future: Adobe Systems. Wired couldn't quite get the Adobe folks to admit their office-suite aspirations, but they came pretty close:

"According to Adobe group manager for platform evangelism, Mike Downey, it wouldn't be outlandish to predict the company throws its hat into the ring soon.

"'Though we have not yet announced any intentions to move into the office-productivity software market," he says, "considering we have built this platform that makes it easy to build rich applications that run on both the desktop and the browser, I certainly wouldn't rule anything like that out.'"

At long last, it looks like Microsoft Office, with its 90+ percent market share,  may get some serious competition.

Topics: Google, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Oracle


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Mac

    This sheds some light on why suddenly Sun has fired up much more active
    development of OpenOffice for Mac in spite of what is being done and the huge lead
    the NeoOffice project has.
  • Lip stick doesn't change the fact its a pig.

    Sorry, both OpenOffice and StarOffice falls far short of Microsoft Office. Plain truth no one wants to admit, these have been around for years and no one wants them.
    • Yes, Sun has surrendered.

      Even with the free labour from Sun has been unable to make a substantial enough profit to continue the effort. Remember how hopeful the company once was, including the major deal with China which didn't quite work?

      So I guess this means that, aside form WordPerfect, there'll be no real competition for Office.

      Aside, of course, from loss leaders and lagniappes, which don't count as anything more than promotional give-aways.
      Anton Philidor
      • "the major deal with China"

        Is that why Gates made his trip to China,
        kissed their rumps and promised to
        practically "give" ($3 to $6) Microsoft
        software to them?

        Microsoft in China: Who Conquered Whom?
        TAKEAWAY: Microsoft had to get rid of its
        American/European business model in order to
        find success in China. The tech giant
        started offering rock-bottom prices for its
        applications, abandoned its staunch stance
        on intellectual property rights, and started
        partnering with the government instead of
        fighting it. But the turning point that
        boosted Microsoft's image in China was when
        Microsoft opened a research center in
        Beijing, which lured back computer

        The culmination of Gates plans in 1998:

        "About 3 million computers get sold every
        year in China, but people don't pay for the
        software. Someday they will, though. As long
        as they are going to steal it, we want them
        to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted,
        and then we'll somehow figure out how to
        collect sometime in the next decade."
        Speech at the University of Washington, as
        reported in "Gates, Buffett a bit bearish"
        CNET News (2 July 1998)
        Ole Man
      • What have you been smoking ?

        I have no idea as to what you are going on about and I strongly doubt you have any idea as to what Sun has made in so far as profits or balance sheets. But you could prove me wrong, just post your facts and let them speak for themselves. I'd very much like to see their balance sheets for this year, last year and the year before. Who did Sun surrender to ? When, why and for whatever reason ? Be factual, no blithering, foaming at the mouth, lack of details or general fodder from the north end of a cow heading south
    • Idiot

      You miss the point. It won't matter if StarOffice lags behind MS Office.

      The question is, is it good enough considering the cost differential?

      Google is a new distribution channel for StarOffice. Google Updater is pre-installed and slip-installed on a HUGE number of PCs. Awareness and adoption of StarOffice/OpenOffice is going to grow substantially.

      This is bad thing for MS.
    • haven't used office 2007 then?

      new gui, that when learnt (taking considerable time) doesn't make users any faster than they were. What an excellent waste of money
      for users.
      And it takes around 20 times as much hard disk space as OpenOffice.
    • I agree

      I agree that no one want them, but I think it's for a different reason. MS Office and OpenOffice work closely enough that a user being subjected to OpenOffice can operate it and make use of it even if they are schooled in MS Office only. However once they figure out how to save their nicely formatted OpenOffice document to ".doc" and deliver it to their client who is using MS Office only to lean later that their document looks like a pig with lipstick in MS Word, OpenOffice will never be used by that person again when they realize that their self image is worth more than the price of an MS Office license.
      • I think you meant Office 2003 to Office 2K

        The varying versions of Office have the most problems being transfered from program to program. Office 2003 simply fails a substantial amount of the time to open 97 files. That's why I installed OO on my Solaris worksation for all my colleagues to use. I got sick of them emailing them to me to convert them into something Office 2003 can read using OO as the translator.


        P.S. Everyone now has OO installed. A very large Indian customer mandates ODF for all correspondence.
    • You are consistent. (i.e. wrong)

      Here's the same reply you keep failing to address or respond to in blog after blog after blog talkback.

      OO owns 20% of the world home market, 7% of the world workplace market and of that 7%, they own 20% of the SMB market.

      Again, like I always do, please provide from proof/evidence/link indicating ANY kind of proof to your claims.

      MS is the one that is very worried as ODF popularity is outstripping OOXML.

      I know, rebutting your rock solid positions with 3rd party verifiable facts is totally unfair. Anyway, keep posting the same, I will too.

      • OpenOffice/StarOffice Have Far Fewer Headaches

        I've used both in Windows and Linux (Ubuntu & Xandros). Compared to my experiences in MS Office, they are far more stable. Word keeps losing or corrupting my file. I can't start word without it telling me all kinds of macros are out of date (thank you, Outlook).

        MS Excel is vastly superior in charting capablilities, almost night and day, and OOo won't have something close for another year or so. Powerpoint has more creature comforts, but Impress works just fine once you learn it. Word processing in OOo is far more predictable and reliable. Anyone who's used section breaks in Word or tries to create master documents has learned to ask for low floors in hotels so they can't hurt themselves when they get the urge to jump when those features won't cooperate.

        I've found that PDF making with a variety of programs with MS Office documents is a crapshoot. I've always found that pulling MSOffice docs into OOo and making PDFs from there has greater consistency and predictability.

        I've use OOo/SO now for more than three years. It's far more solid and predictable now than Word, WordPerfect, and Lotus WordPro. And, it's free. It's one of the best examples of how far along the open source movement has come.
    • Just saw my RSS feed. MS loses Malaysia to ODF

      Shame that yet another country is mandating an actual open standard that "no one wants". You must revel is being wrong or pulling a massively subtle Mike Cox on all of us.,39044164,62030781,00.htm

    • It is a pig in YOUR opinion

      I have used Open Office for years and for most people who [i]do not want or need[/i] all the features of MSFT office, it works just FINE. can't beat the price: a FREE download. each his own.
    • Sorry, I do, so I know there is one not no one

      After all the time and previous posts there seems to be a never ending line of posters who want to try and speak for everyone as though somebody elected them to speak for the masses. They have been around for years and if nobody, I mean nobody wanted them, they would not be still around. No boast, no fodder, just common sense would be enough to see through this lack of common sense statement. No Axe, you really make some good posts sometimes but you have to stop trying to talk for everyone as it's time you spoke for yourself. If you can't understand why anyone would want to use any other Office software aside from MS Office, then say so and we might tell you why we find it has some shortcomings but nothing that we can't deal with. Linux works as well for me as Linux but linux does have issues but it doesn't have Vista's issues. I'm not one to lay out money for something I can't even agree to it's license terms and conditions. Vista is no longer an option for me, good OS but Microsoft is a ridiculous company to deal with on any level. This company, corporation would pull the rusty nails out of a coffin if they figured they could market them. Are you seriously going to stand up and say Microsoft's license agreement is fair and straight forward. The terms and conditions force you and me to activate, verify and do it over and over and over again with no end in sight. Why ? Because MS has never been able to manage their own piracy issues so they force us to. What is wrong with your mind ? Do you think this is right, just and if so why do you think I should have to try and talk to some guy in India who I cannot understand to prove to MS that it's their product ! You must be completely unbalanced if you think I'm buying into anymore of that !
    • Ignorance is no Excuse

      Clearly you haven't used OpenOffice or StarOffice "for years" and that "plain truth" is impossible for YOU to admit. They have come a long way baby.
  • Intruiging stuff.

    Looks like Star Office is switching to a Mozilla style revenue model of payment per Google referral. As for the other hints... what would most affect ODF adoption and provide more compatibility with MS Office I wonder...
    • Related: "Microsoft loses key US OpenXML vote"

      Washington Post

      "Microsoft Corp. has lost a key vote in its quest to develop an alternative to the Open Document Format standard, backed by the open-source community.

      The executive committee of the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) fell one vote shy of the nine required to approve Microsoft's Open XML standard. It voted 8 to 7 in favor of approval with one abstention, the group announcedlast week.


      INCITS has until Sept. 2 to decide whether it will support Open XML within the JTC-1, but this week's vote shows that this will not happen unless Microsoft can swing some voters.

      Committee representatives from Microsoft, Apple Inc., Intel Corp., Sony Corp., EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Electronic Industries Alliance supported Microsoft's standard. Against it were IBM, Oracle Corp., Lexmark International Inc., the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, GS1 US Inc., and Farance Inc. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) abstained due to "the divergent viewpoints of key IEEE members."
      • Goofed - Meant reply to story not comment NT

  • Two things I think of...

    Sun's CEO: ?You would be wise to listen to the customers you?re threatening to sue - they can leave you, especially if you give them motivation. Remember, they wouldn?t be motivated unless your products were somehow missing the mark.?

    and this story...
    • And the point?

      So easy to find anything you wish

      As for Sun's CEO? Well, look at the performance of Sun to answer any legitimate questions you may have.