Sun Launches StarOffice 8 Suite

Highlighting its OpenDocument compatibility, Sun on Tuesday released the final version of StarOffice 8. With the launch announcement also came deals with two software distributors, Encore and Avanquest Software, to ensure wider retail distribution of the productivity suite.

Encore will be the sole distributor of StarOffice 8 in the U.S. and Canada, while Avanquest will initially offer the software across ten countries in Europe. The new retail agreements are aimed at placing StarOffice in front of the eyes of more consumers, and attempt to cut into Microsoft's dominance in the productivity software market.

At a price of $69.95 USD by download and $99.95 USD for a boxed version of the product, Sun hopes that StarOffice's lower overall cost will draw users in. "We definitely have a competitive edge there," a Sun spokesperson told BetaNews.

The latest version of the suite, which is based on OpenOffice.org 2.0, offers bug fixes, a more MS Office-like UI and better compatibility with Office documents. "We have focused a lot on the Microsoft Office compatibility," StarOffice senior product manager Iyer Ventkesan said in an interview with BetaNews.

Ventkesan says Office compatibility was job number one - read the interview here.

Sun also wants to give users a better reason to purchase their version of the open source productivity suite rather than download the free OpenOffice.org product. "With StarOffice 8, there is a bigger difference between OpenOffice.org and StarOffice," Ventkesan said.

Chief among the differences are a set of migration tools to ease the transition to StarOffice.

A wizard known as the document analyzer will scan Office documents and report on their complexity and how accurately and quickly they can be converted to the OpenOffice format. Also, it will make suggestions as to which documents should and should not be converted based on their date they were created or last opened.

Another wizard will convert Office VBA macros for use in StarOffice. A third will help IT managers better manage users of the program through the use of an LDAP server.

Users of the suite include the Burlington Coat Factory, a northeastern-based United States clothing retailer, and the city of Bristol in the United Kingdom. Sun declined to comment whether or not it was in negotiations with any municipalities in Massachusetts after their decision to move to OpenDocument based office software last week.

"The enhanced interoperability of StarOffice 8 makes it a comprehensive, cross-platform office productivity suite that offers that meets the needs of both home and office users for a fraction of the cost of competitive products," John Loiacono, executive vice president of the Software Group at Sun said.

StarOffice is available immediately for download from the StarOffice Web site, and packaged versions will be available in retail outlets starting in October.

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