Sun Microsystems today confirmed plans to make public the source
code of its StarOffice suite under the GNU General Public Licence
Opening the source code of StarOffice, which competes with
Microsoft's Office programs, would give the fledgling productivity
suite a boost by allowing software developers besides Sun to expand
Sun plans to post open source code for StarOffice 6.0, the
next-generation version of the suite, at www.openoffice.org by the
middle of October.
OpenOffice.org will be formed and managed by Collab.Net and will
serve as the co-ordination point for the source code, the
definition of XML-based file formats, and the definition of
language-independent office application programming interfaces
Marco Boerries, vice president and general manager of webtop and
application software at Sun, said: "Sun's open sourcing of
StarOffice is the single largest open source software contribution
in GPL history, and adds a key application suite to the open source
portfolio. This announcement will leverage StarOffice's role as the
leading productivity suite for multiple platforms."
Tim O'Reilly, founder and chief executive at O'Reilly and
Associates, said the availability of StarOffice under the GPL will
give Linux a boost on the desktop.
Jon Collins, a senior analyst at Bloor Research, said the move
made sense because in the future, StarOffice would be distributed
through application service providers (ASPs), who may want to adapt
and modify the software.
"The future of StarOffice is integration with platforms other
than the PC and delivery by ASPs," said Collins, who added that the
main question was whether enough open source developers will be
attracted to working on the suite.
He said that despite generating a lot of interest, the suite has
not really taken off as a replacement for Microsoft Office because
there is no clear benefit in migration for people who have already
purchased Microsoft's software.
He added that StarOffice was targeted at people who didn't want
to spend money - principally consumers - and that there would be a
configuration overhead and learning curve if it were adopted by
The suite, which was developed by Marco Boerries and his Star
Division and later bought by Sun for $74m in stock, has been
gaining in popularity recently.
According to figures from Sun, approximately 15 million copies
of StarOffice have been distributed over the past 10 months, three
million of which were downloaded from Sun's website. The other 12
million copies were distributed through Linux and PC vendors.
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