Sun launches first Mac StarOffice

StarOffice 9 costs $35 but comes with some support

A month after OpenOffice.org released its first-ever free application suite written for Mac OS X, Sun Microsystems Inc. today unveiled a native Mac edition of StarOffice, the commercial version of the bundle.

StarOffice 9, which Sun officially unveiled today, shares code with OpenOffice.org 3.0, the free suite that launched in mid-October to strong demand; the OpenOffice.org servers were knocked offline for several hours the first day. According to an official with OpenOffice.org, users downloaded 3 million copies of the suite the first week it was available.

Like OpenOffice.org, the Mac version of StarOffice 9 runs only on Intel-based machines, and it includes the same set of new features and improvements -- notably, support for the new OOXML (Open Office XML) file formats that debuted in Microsoft's Office 2007 for Windows and Office for Mac 2008.

Unlike OpenOffice.org, however, StarOffice 9 is not free. Although it is also labeled open source, the suite is priced at $34.95 for one-off licenses, with volume pricing for businesses starting at $25 per seat. Sun provides support -- up to three phone calls or e-mails in the first 60 days -- with the license, and offers additional support in several subscription plans.

OpenOffice.org was used by about 5% of U.S. adults on the Internet between May and November, according to ClickStream Technologies LLC, but the company did not track StarOffice separately. Ten times more people -- 51% of those polled -- used Microsoft Word during the seven-month stretch.

Although OpenOffice.org and StarOffice have historically provided the strongest competition for Microsoft's Office, they also face online-only rivals like Google Inc.'s Docs and, in the future, Microsoft's Office Web. The latter, which Microsoft has said it will launch along with the next version of Office on the desktop -- perhaps as soon as a year from now -- will be accessible through non-Microsoft browsers, including Apple Inc.'s Safari and Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox, on Mac OS X computers.

Last week, an entry on the Microsoft-run Channel 10 blog spelled out system requirements for Office Web, claiming that the lightweight, online-delivered versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote would run within Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, and within Safari on the Apple iPhone.

A Microsoft spokeswoman later confirmed the blog's accuracy. "Web applications will work in mobile scenarios, and will work in the browser (Safari) on the iPhone," she said Thursday in an e-mail. "Office Web applications will work across multiple platforms and browsers (Safari/ Firefox/ IE), creating a familiar and easy interface across PCs, phones and browsers."

StarOffice 9 can be downloaded in English, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Swedish language editions from Sun's Web site. The suite requires Mac OS X 10.4, a.k.a Tiger, or later.

StarSuite 9, the edition for Chinese, Japanese and Korean users, also is available in a Mac OS version.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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