Editor's note: On Sept. 5, CNET News.com ran a column by Guernsey Research
analyst Chris LeTocq questioning whether Sun's software was ready to take on
Microsoft Office. The following is Sun's reply.
With the rising cost of office-productivity software, many small businesses
are asking themselves whether investing in yet another upgrade is really necessary.
And tight budgets are causing school districts to wonder whether there's an
alternative to the pricey software they thought was so essential.
With the start of the beta review process for StarOffice 6.0 right around the
corner and general availability expected early in the new year, these customers
could find their alternative in an office suite from Sun Microsystems.
StarOffice is aimed at cost-constrained customers who want a full-featured
office productivity suite while retaining compatibility with Microsoft Office
files or, more importantly, who want to put their money into revenue-generating
projects rather than office software. That's why small businesses, home offices,
educational and government organizations, and consumers are receptive to the
value of StarOffice.
The customer considering StarOffice 6.0 needs to answer a few questions. First,
how cost sensitive are you? For many, such as home users, schools, governments
and small businesses, a US$699 computer is still a lot of money. Paying several
hundred more for upgrades every 18 months is just not a realistic option--especially
when the value of the new features continues to decrease.
Second, are you in or considering a multi-platform environment? If the Solaris
or Linux operating systems are part of your environment or plans, then you'll
want to be able to read Microsoft Office files as they come from outside the
organization, but you'll want your internal efforts to use the same productivity
technology. One of the core strengths of StarOffice is the ability to maintain
the same experience and interoperability across multiple platforms with the
best filters for reading Microsoft office files.
Third, are you able to take advantage of a product with an open-sourced technology
base? StarOffice is based on the OpenOffice.org project. While this might not
matter to everyone, many people are reassured that the open-source base of the
software means that no single company dominates the direction and developments.
In addition, it gives participating organizations the ability to customize their
office software to their own specifications.
Fourth, are you locked into a single company's office-productivity experience?
While there's a vast difference between a replacement and an alternative, most
people today value the benefits of having a choice. For some, however, the choice
has been made, and the costs of switching are too great. Although there's little
sense in evaluating StarOffice now, for these customers, it may be a future
Taking on Microsoft
Although Sun has not historically targeted businesses that already use Microsoft
Office, many of Microsoft's customers, unhappy with the current licensing strategy,
have approached Sun for office-productivity technology. The challenge of migration
lies with file conversion and Microsoft's proprietary, non-documented macros.
If customers have macros embedded in their files, we cannot convert them, and
they must be recreated in StarOffice--a significant investment to a large business.
However, the price of Microsoft's expensive and repetitive licensing model could
more than offset this expenditure.
The enhancements we're planning for StarOffice are straightforward and based
on the premise that people are seeking usability improvements, not new features
they'll never use. In StarOffice 6.0 we'll deliver the following:
• XML file formats, which will give portability, interoperability and
smaller file sizes
• Compatibility with native desktop environments--removal of the integrated
• A revamped and simplified Help structure
• Improved Microsoft Office compatibility, especially with TrueType fonts
• New templates, clip art and graphics
• Asian-language support to deliver StarOffice functionality to key markets
By adding Asian-language functionality in Japanese, Korean and Chinese dialects,
StarOffice caters to the unique demands of countries wary of installing Microsoft
Office. China, for example, has taken steps to embrace Linux, which would enable
customers to take advantage of both the economic benefit of StarOffice and the
resources of an open-source environment.
Sun originally acquired StarOffice to provide its Solaris operating environment
customers first-rate office-productivity software and to bring this technology
to a broader market in exciting new ways. Not only has Sun been successful with
its Solaris operating system customers, but StarOffice is the leading office
suite for the Linux marketplace.
Sun recognizes that office productivity will soon be needed as a Web service
on demand. Customers will want to increase the number of places and devices
from which they can access their files and documents. With the Sun One Webtop
technology, Sun is bringing office productivity to a broad range of devices
in significant new ways.