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Sun wants local StarOffice outsourcer

All processes around the sale, manufacturing, distribution and basic support of the new version of Sun Microsystems' office suite will be outsourced in Australia to a yet-to-be-appointed local software publisher. That publisher, which Sun expects to sign in three months' time, would pay royalties to Sun based on units sold and primarily target the small to medium business market, according to the company's local software business manager Laurie Wong.

All processes around the sale, manufacturing, distribution and basic support of the new version of Sun Microsystems' office suite will be outsourced in Australia to a yet-to-be-appointed local software publisher.

That publisher, which Sun expects to sign in three months' time, would pay royalties to Sun based on units sold and primarily target the small to medium business market, according to the company's local software business manager Laurie Wong.

"Sun will still be responsible for product development, PR and brand management and backline support," said a statement from the company.

The move is part of a global initiative announced in late September with the launch of version 8 of StarOffice. Globally, it will see StarOffice placed on shelves in thousands of retail outlets, with software publishers having been signed at launch for the North American, European and Japan.

"We're trying something different, because really the old model was very cost heavy," Wong told ZDNet Australia, adding the economics of manufacturing retail boxes of StarOffice overseas and shipping them to Australia "didn't make sense".

Wong declined to name the software publishers Sun was in local discussions with, but he did admit his company had a lack of expertise in the area.

"We haven't been active in that part of the market," he said. "We've always been an enterprise player, so now we're having to rely on other people advising us as to who might be a very good software publisher."

The executive further acknowledged Sun had not locally been targeting deals with OEM manufacturers like Dell or Lenovo that could result in greater customer mindshare.

"We haven't been pursuing the OEM market," he said, adding that Sun had just appointed a new staff member to aid in that area.

The admission follows a disclosure from Lenovo last week that it would bundle StarOffice with one model in its laptop line -- but only in Singapore.

Asked how StarOffice would compete with its open source sibling OpenOffice.org, which can be downloaded for free and provides similar functionality, Wong said the products were aimed at different markets.

"We won't really target the consumer or the hobbyist end of the market [with StarOffice]," he said. "We're targeting more the SMB market and the enterprise market."

He said the essential difference between the two products was that Sun would indemnify customers for any intellectual property breach found in StarOffice, but would not do so for OpenOffice.

The previous version 7 of StarOffice had seen about 100,000 licences sold in Australia, according to Wong. In comparison, he estimated that about 2.5 percent, or 1.25 million of OpenOffice.org's 50-odd million downloads had originated in Australia.

"So there's a bigger community of OpenOffice users out there than there is of Staroffice users I surmise," he said.

"It's not really impressive compared to our friends at Microsoft."

Wong said StarOffice 8 would be priced below the AUD$200 mark locally.