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StarOffice To Support MS Office Macros

The conversion will include Visual Basic to Star Basic, and be available in a soon-to-be-released update to StarOffice 7.
In its quest to wrest converts from Microsoft Office, Sun Microsystems will soon add a macro conversion utility to its StarOffice software suite, a top Sun executive said Tuesday.

"There will be macro conversion in StarOffice, and Visual Basic-to-Star Basic conversion will be part of that," Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Sun's Software Group told reporters in Boston Tuesday morning.

The converter will be available in a soon-to-be-released update to StarOffice 7, a Sun spokeswoman confirmed after Schwartz comments.

"There will be some heavy lifting ... There will also be a management console for the Java Desktop to be announced next month where in one location you can disable all the macro execution--which is where all the viruses come from," Schwartz said.

Winning share from Office, which arguably owns 90-plus percent of the market in desktop productivity applications, is no mean feat. Sun and Linux proponents maintain that the current StarOffice and its OpenOffice analog already offer good file compatibility with Word and Excel documents, but moving customer-written macros over has been a problem. StarOffice 7, which runs on Linux, Solaris and Windows desktops, has been widely available since last November. OpenOffice, available from Openoffice.org adds Macintosh support to the list.

While Linux desktops represent a relatively small market share--some say two percent--observers say several factors are contributing to renewed interest. Continued displeasure among corporate customers over Microsoft's volume-licensing deals are at least sparking some interest in Linux alternatives, many observers have said. Sun last month announced a 10,000-seat Microsoft Office to StarOffice conversion for the United India Insurance Company (UIIC).

Several corporate sources maintain that they use Linux and StarOffice or OpenOffice as a negotiation tool with Microsoft to lower Office licensing costs.

In his comments and Q&A with the press, Schwartz also repeatedly compared Solaris--Sun's bread-and-butter Unix operating system--favorably with Red Hat Linux, and largely stayed clear of the Microsoft bashing that has characterized many Sun talks. He repeatedly stated that Solaris running on Intel compares favorably in both price and performance vs. Red Hat Linux on that platform.

He acknowledged that over the past years, Sun lost momentum by concentrating on high-end 100-way machines, while Intel and its hardware partners attacked the server market from the low end. In the past few years, Sun accordingly has concentrated on one-, two- and four-way processor boxes, and honed Solaris performance on those machines. The Sun executives repeatedly avowed that with recent Red Hat price hikes, Sun solutions are actually less expensive than their Red Hat counterparts.

Schwartz offered no update on the war of words going on between IBM and Sun over the potential of open-sourcing Java. Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technologies at IBM Software, last month challenged Sun to "open source" Java development. Since that time both companies have said they will discuss the issue.

Schwartz and Mark Bauhaus, vice president of Java Web Services at Sun, said they were unaware of any high-level meetings in the past two weeks.

"Many of the things Rod asked for were already freely available, source code for example," Schwartz insisted.

"We love getting open letters from Rod as much as we love sending open letters to Sam," Schwartz said, referring to IBM chairman Sam Palmisano.

Schwartz said software licensing, much like technology development itself, is evolutionary. He said Sun's licensing model has always fostered great amount of outside input into the process and platform development. "If there was one knock, it was that we were not as sensitive as we needed to be to smaller companies but our new license is not one-size-fits all," he noted.

He also maintained that Sun is no enemy of the General Public License so prevalent in the open source world. The issue with GPL, is it encourages "forking" of code, he noted. "This is not a value statement, I'm not saying it's good or bad, but the Red Hat fork is different than the SUSE fork ... a Red Hat app will not run on SUSE Linux," he noted.

Sun is committed to preserving interoperability, he said.

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