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Sun Plays Off Microsoft License Changes

Sun believes Microsoft's license changes will make its own StarOffice more attractive to businesses.
Sun Microsystems thinks it sees an opening in its battle to undercut Microsoft's Office productivity apps. License changes by Microsoft should make Sun's open-source rival to Office, StarOffice, more attractive to businesses, Sun execs say. Version 6 of StarOffice is due to ship next week, and Sun is spotlighting how Microsoft now requires Office buyers to sign maintenance agreements in order to get upgrades. Microsoft is "putting a gun to the head of a lot of folks in a very tight economic environment," Jonathan Schwartz, chief strategy officer for Sun, told reporters Wednesday.

In fact, Sun execs acknowledged that the more likely customer for StarOffice would be companies whose employees didn't need Office's many capabilities--such as retail, call-center, and factory workers. As a customer reference, Sun presented a representative from Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., who described how StarOffice is being used on Linux desktops mostly for simple text editing.

The upgrade includes the ability to open, save, and exchange Microsoft Office files. It also uses a default file format based on XML, making it possible for developers to more easily share StarOffice content with other programs. StarOffice 6 will be sold on a per-user basis, ranging from $25 to $50, depending on volume.