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Sun Microsystems

Linuxcare and Sun partner on StarOffice for Linux 70

Anonymous Coward writes "August 31, 1999 -- Linuxcare announced today that it had reached an agreement with Sun Microsystems to provide a range of enterprise-class services for Sun's recently acquired StarOffice productivity suite on Linux. " Lotsa activity about StarOffice in the past few days-from being "community-licensed", to being developed into a Web application. Look for more news on this later on today.
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Linuxcare and Sun partner on StarOffice for Linux

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  • This is my only problem with the Sun/StarDivision teaming. OpenDoc is a fantastic concept and could have changed the way we look at using computers but this and that happened (or didn't) and then Java became the platform neutral way to compute. KOffice with KOM/OpenParts is part 2 of OpenDoc in my opinion and I'd really like to see it have a chance to show users what a data-centric computing model can do. With Star Office being free to all and shipping fully functional today I hope that it can be KOM/OpenParts enabled and work with KOffice parts. That would give KOffice time to mature but bring another full suite of parts to KOM/OpenParts. After all, how impressive is it that one office suite works with only its own parts? Showing a KOffice part embedded in a KStarOffice part would be awesome. Just hope that KOffice doesn't get bowled over like OpenDoc did because we NEED this kind of technology to move out of this application-centric way of computing.
  • a quick look at the win32 installation directory revealed that the jre 1.1.7b (the java runtime environment) is included with the windows distribution. interesting.
  • >As an IS guy who does a lot of user support,
    >let me just say that the real cost of an office
    >suite is porting apps, templates, and getting
    >the users up to speed.

    this is true for big business, but sun(star) has a decent shot at the SOHO market and end users with cheap PC. one of the reasons windows is so popular is because people use it at home, therefore free training for the company/no learning curve.

    chances are good, though, that this is just another of those meaningless purchases. it would be great if they could figure out what they wanted to do and actually do it. just a simple brainstorming session will give you half a dozen ways to help sun/hurt MS (equally as important to sun). it's going to end up mired in the standard big business/old school/stockholder pleasing mentality and it'll be dumped, i'm afraid.
  • Sun continues to shoot itself in the foot with bad licensing in an attempt to hurt microsoft. The license connected with this software is horrible. Restrictions on modification, restrictions on commercial distribution, etc. Take a look at the way Sun is being eclipsed where Java is concerned - other people have come out with an Open Source VM, an Open Source Java compiler, etc. When Sun decided to get tough with Microsoft about its use of Java, MS just turned elsewhere, Open Source Java creator Transvirtual, to purchase Java software. Free Linux office suites will continue in development and will eventually eclipse StarOffice.



  • I'd say there would be little benefit in switching to StarOffice for Windows. It only makes sense to switch if you can move most users to Linux/Unix, since that's bound to substantially reduce "This worked yesterday! It doesn't work now!" type questions. It will increase the "How do I do this?" questions, but only for a while. In my experience, the clueless will still need help, and the clueful will figure out the differences pretty fast.

    If you consider how expensive IT support is, it might make a lot of sense to do this, assuming StarOffice's functions are comparable.

    It's pretty easy to learn a new macro language, and in my one check of StarOffice's, it looked like a virtual clone of MS's - it was so close it felt eerie.

    The real disadvantage of Linux is that custom applications based on Access won't run. I wonder if StarDivision, flush with cash, has an Access clone in the works? It would be the next logical step.

    Or maybe StarDivision's owners are lounging on a tropical island. I'm still flabbergasted at the price they got from Sun. I would have believed closer to $ 50 million than $ 500 million ...


  • >You also forget that Sun DOES have a vested
    >interest in Star Office. First off, it is Sun's
    >corporate philosophy that systems be non-
    >proprietary and open.

    Yeah, right. Sun was doing the "embrace and extend" thing with Unix before Microsoft even thought of it. It's difficult for a company to truly push non-proprietary products and still maximize their profit. Sun has chosen the next best thing, which is to act like they're all into the "open" philosophy while hoping that their mindless zealots will remain too dumb to see the truth.

    Sun's "Community License" BS is just the latest.

    >Second is the "network is the computer" and "run
    >anything, any time, anywhere, on any device"
    >(Microsoft has also taken up the latter, but
    >that is besides the point.)

    Sorry, Sun may jump up and down yelling about the network is the computer and the run anything anywhere BS, but it's just that: BS. Has anyone else noted the nonsense of Sun's answer to Microsoft everywhere? It's "Java anywhere". Wait, Java is a proprietary technology (language and libs) owned by Sun. So, I'm to believe that Sun having the monopoly now held by Microsoft is somehow better?

    You have me laughing at this point. I love watching a Sun zealot parrot Scott McNealy's (note: rhymes with "Mr. McFeely") maniacal rantings.

    >80% of the traffic on the Internet runs on
    >Sun machines,

    Hey, the College of Cardinals just called. Seems they're looking for a new Pope and I'm it.

    That statement is far closer to reality than teh 80% figure that you quote.

    >if more people start using the internet and
    >ISPs and others have more uses for servers,
    >Sun will make money on the deal. Sun is planning
    >on offering Star Portal, which will be able to
    >be used on the thin-client model. Thin clients >run well on what... Sun servers. I think that is
    >a vested interest, don't you agree?

    Wow, so I can use hilarilously expensive proprietary Sun hardware (oh, bonus, I get to also be locked in to their proprietary OS) as a server. Sorry, I'll go with Linux, the number one web service platform on the internet. Linux actually is the whatever behind dot com.

    You Sun zealots crack me up!

  • by weo ( 7251 )
    You CAN make changes. You get the source code.
    You CAN redistribute. You just can't make any money on the software without giveing SUN royalties. ie it accomplishes the same as the GPL Free source code and freely share with you friends your changes. As far as using code for other projects... If you use enought of the Star office code base you do owe the creaters something back. This model is much better than the MS.. you don't have any rights.

    Please get you facts strait expecialy the first one. It just make you look like a FUD spreader.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You don't write lotta of Java software do you?

    You can't get any non-trivial Java apps to work correctly with these Open Source JVM's you advertise. You're pretty much stuck with a "Hello World" level programs. And there is no alternative, at all, to the software libraries that come with Sun licensed development kits (and yeah, before dozens of slashdotters come out screaming, I'm aware of Classpath project, and think it's a very cool project, but they aren't done yet, and only after they are, we can start arguing about if they can compete with Sun's "horribly" licensed stuff).

    Open Source Java is not an option today.

    As for compilers, I doubt Sun could care less about open source compilers. Stuff like Pizza has been around for ages, and even compilers that only accept "pure" Java probably quite some time. It's the bytecode that matters. And only that. Sun being eclipsed by OSS Java compilers? Heh. That really doesn't make any sense.

  • I picked the wrong time to try StarOffice - just as I download it sun rip up the whole site and trash the news groups, great support guys! (Seems to hang on Deb potato)
  • All we need now is for staroffice to open up so that the developers at kde can chew through it to get koffice up an running.

    Power without perception is spiritualy useless, and therefore of no true value.
  • Say what?

    I don't see what StarOffice "opening up" has to do with KOffice. Possibly the import/export filters, but KOffice already has those...

    And KOffice IS "up and running". You can download and compile a snapshot any time you please, or if you're using Debian, install precompiled debs (Apt is a wonderful tool). It's not very stable yet, but it's getting better all the time.

    If you want to get KOffice up and running, then GET OUT THERE AND CODE!
  • Sun should bundle StarOffice with JDK, and claim that it is "integrated" with java. See how that affects MS Office sales...


  • Does Sun buying StarOffice remind anyone of Novell buying WordPerfect in the early 1990s - i.e., a company trying to enter a market it does not understand or have a vested interest in, but only seeks to attack and scare their chief competitor (MS in both cases)?

    Novell essentially let WordPerfect die before seeling it off to Corel; I fear Sun will do the same to StarOffice once the initial interest fades...

  • I don't think someone downloading the development kit would want an office suite with it. That would piss people off - myself included.
  • There already IS a Java version....
  • Sun could do a lot to start with by taking that ridiculous "Start" button function off the StarOffice explorer. I thought it was ironic till I realised there was no obvious way of getting rid of it.

    That aside, StarOffice is a top product, and has everything an M$-beater needs:

    1) It can read M$ file formats (great for those "corporate rollout"/backwards compatibility moments)

    2) Its available on platforms outside *nix (great for those "I can't be parted from my beloved.... crap! it crashed again!...Windows" moments)

    3) It really kinda rocks, M$-interface cloning aside.

    An integration with KDE (as someone said above) would rule beyond belief, and events of the past few days finally make this a possibility. As far as I can see, Sun's money, influence, friends and acid hatred of Microsoft can only be good for StarOffice.

    I for one am cheering.
  • I picked the wrong time to try StarOffice - just as I download it sun rip up the whole site and trash the news groups, great support guys! (Seems to hang on Deb potato)
    Yeah, StarOffice 5.1 doesn't work on glibc2.1.2 (at least the pre in potato)

    I saw the Support site last night before they took it down, and StarDivision's response was "Yes, it's broken right now. We may have to release a patch for that" But, for the time being, it's just broken. I get the idea that they're waiting to see if it's a bug in glibc or if it will actually require a fix for StarOffice.

    This is exactly the sort of thing the community sourcing of Star Office should facilitate getting fixed, though. :)

  • There's a heftier cost to, say, a business than the sticker price.

    Even if an IT director chose to get the Windows version of StarOffice (in constrast to hiring, say, Unix-aware sysadmins, switching boxes, and adding a LOT of expense), you have to get the users trained for the new software.

    This includes special capabilities like macro languages, templates and so forth, giving the whole company an at-least-one-time productivity hit. You might also have to check about interoperability with clients' systems if you're transferring saved documents and clients decide to go with a newer Office version using yet another file format...

    Compare that w/ the $300/seat (well, only if you can't negotiate a site license or other deal...) one-time upgrade cost. Unless MS dev's go insane and start tweaking like madmen, most upgrades won't be removing depended-upon features, nor make them less accessible. There's less training time associated with that.

    If, say, an employee makes $70K/year, assuming perhaps 50 wks work/year at a fudgy 60h/wk, that comes out to ~$23.33/hr. So a break-even point might be 12 hours of completely lost productivity assuming no other costs and you accept those dodgy numbers as remotely correct. Keep in mind that I'm ignoring any additional support costs, as well...
  • You miss the point. "Integrating" jdk & StarOffice would mean that anyone who got jdk would also be getting Star Office in the process. Kind of like how another software company "integrated" their browser & OS. ;)
  • Ah - you didn't make that very clear :).

    That would be pretty funny, though.
  • There is some amount of KDE integration (or CDE, if you prefer). You can drag & drop to/from kfm, and it installs Mime Types in KDE for StarOffice files (although for some odd reason, the "descriptions" are all "mime type". Duh.

    I would like to see it do away with its attempt to be its own window manager, though.
  • An article in USA Today said that Star Office would be hard pressed to overtake M$ and their "100 million loyal fans". Were they smokin' something? Hmmmm....StarOffice for free; MS Office V xxxx ......$500 to $600, or as an upgrade $300?
    I won't complain like some of the other posters, since if you really want to hurt M$, hit them in their pocket. The article said that M$ wouldn't take this sitting down, which would seem odd to me; since they couldn't match Sun's price (free).
    Seems to me that everyone in open source should cheer, since Sun has made a major shot across the M$ bow. Quit complaining, and think how this could add to the woes of M$.
  • If they are giving it away for free, my guess is that they have some idea of how to keep it going. Wordperfect was still a costly program, iirc, making things free changes a lot. Of course, if they had truly open-sourced it, things would get better faster, but that's another story.

    I do agree though that buying companies just to try and compete with M$ can be risky, but it's still better than sitting back and watching them rake in the dough.
  • . . . then it will be very interesting to see if the open source movement can really out do Microsoft.

    I downloaded Star Office for the first time yesterday and took a look at it. It is very complete, far more functionality than any open source office software I've seen. It looks like it can compete with MS Office in the "side of the box feature list" department.

    On the downside, however MS Office is at least twice as fast on identical hardware. Test machine is a Compaq Deskpro with a Pentium 200 something with 64MB of RAM. MS Office 97 on NT 4.0 loads reasonable fast and is plenty responsive for general use, even loading multi-hundred page Word documents with embedded graphics. On the same machine, starting Star Office on Mandrake 6.0 allows time to go get coffee. There are noticable delays and lack of responsiveness even when working with small documents.

    Fonts, to be blunt, suck. Now maybe if running ttmkfontdir didn't crash the font server I might be able to get better fonts, but based on what I went through I wouldn't advise inexperienced Linux users to install new fonts. It essentially disabled my machine.

    If Sun really opens the source I'll be waiting to see how many people join in the effort to optimize performance.
  • Sun also has 140 former Star Division employees as well as the former Star Division CEO as the VP in charge of the application and webtop. I think Marco probably understands the market as well as those 140 employees.

    You also forget that Sun DOES have a vested interest in Star Office. First off, it is Sun's corporate philosophy that systems be non-proprietary and open. Second is the "network is the computer" and "run anything, any time, anywhere, on any device" (Microsoft has also taken up the latter, but that is besides the point.)

    80% of the traffic on the Internet runs on Sun machines, if more people start using the internet and ISPs and others have more uses for servers, Sun will make money on the deal. Sun is planning on offering Star Portal, which will be able to be used on the thin-client model. Thin clients run well on what... Sun servers. I think that is a vested interest, don't you agree?

    The Sun and Netscape alliance has the Iplanet offerings. The Iplanet webtop allows you to log into your corporate intranet using a browser. You don't have to dial into the company modem pool in order to use it... you could be at an internet cafe, on a cable modem, or at some other company.

    Say you have a presentation. Rather than lugging a laptop to a client site, you can log into a computer at the client site, and show the presentation through the browser (via Iplanet and StarPortal). That is only one use for it. With the Star Portal being available, they will certainly sell more Iplanet products.
  • I saw part of the broadcast yesterday and the answer is yes, Dell (gateway, compaq VA linux sys. etc etc etc....) could preload and ship staroffice for no fee. (as long as they do not charge for it, if they charge for it then they probably need to give some sort of kickback - but who would pay for it?) and the gist I got from the talk was that Sun would be very happy for resellers to do just that. I think I heard the idea even thrown out about getting the staroffice package put on the AOL cdroms that aol blankets the US mail with wouldn't that be a kick? finally the possibility of useful software on an aol cdrom.
  • It ain't that bad, Bruce, if you are into running in house commercial applications on hot iron and still wants to give the PointyHaired some kind of support. Word processing and fancy graphs extracted from spreadsheets really is the way of todays world, and StarOffice has those features.

    The good news is that what sun is doing is essentially to mirror the gnu effort, albeit with some restrictions, releasing source to the Sun community. This means that _we_ do not have to worry about the sustainability of _their_ buisiness or their ability to fix security holes, since we are in charge of this our selves.

    For those of us using the Solaris system on a dayly basis, the difference between Sun and Gnu is, for all good reasoning, close to nil.

    (But, honestly, I think the compiler they ship with their system is embarrasing. Heck, just about any Free compiler is better .. ;-)
  • We downloaded and installed StarOffice for Solaris/Sparc, and it does not have filters for importing Wordperfect, Ami-Pro, or Lotus files. The sun website says they aren't included due to license reasons, and aren't likely to be implemented for the same reasons.

    Apparently there used to be support in Staroffice for these formats. Is there any way to download the module and install it separately? Office compatibility is nice, but for existing *nix shops like ours who use WP (what else is there?), this limitation severely impacts the value of Staroffice.
  • Just want to say that at least one /. reader noticed the humor in your post!

  • What's the deal with Star Office being pre-installed on computers? Can dell build and sell a system with Star Office instead of MS office, and not pay any royalties, or is there a license fee of some sort that goes to Sun? If computer manufacturers could preinstall StarOffice without paying licensing fees, that would be a great boost to the program.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is the really interesting part of the story. The "free s/w but pay for support" model /really/ threatens M$.
  • One-time-upgrade cost meaning that it's an up-front fee: pay once, get shipped licenses and CDs (once), in constrast to either subscription (e.g. MSDN somehow doesn't seem like a corporate thing to buy. Eh.) or a lifetime of free upgrades (for just download time. I'm just counting major versions here, not SPs/SRs/hotfixes, which generally are downloadable if encumbered by notices that they're unsupported or such. Home users might get an Office or Windows upgrade w/ their new machines, but that's just pre-paid, not truly free...).

    As for macro languages, I was under the impression that Excel macros might actually be used by people doing accounting, or perhaps trying to generate presentations for their bosses. Eh. The users might not use that stuff explicitly (or even knowingly), though, in which case as long as the sysadmins can fix things, unhappiness will be minimized. True.
  • Actually, the programs WOULD be there :).
  • Worse still, add a util.StarOffice interface to the Java API...

    Ewwwwwwwww. ;)

    Betcha MS wouldn't even pretend to fully support that version. Heh.
  • If this turns out to be anything like the Lotus Notes web client, Sun will be first against the wall when the revolution comes. Bletch.
  • I'm sorry, I can't buy that 80% of internet traffic runs on sun machines. If Cisco claimed that, I'd believe it (and then some), but Sun just isn't the master of their domain anymore -- x86 hardware is just too cheap. I've worked at three ISPs, and only one has had a single sun box while the rest had dozens of Intel boxen.

  • i386 Solaris makes intel hardware a sun platform.

  • ISPs billing by connection time would also be a threat to the thin client revenue model. Billing by bandwidth consumed wouldn't affect a web-editor as much.

    If Microsoft gets a large share of the ISP market they could attempt to make web services less attractive to their customers by choosing billing means that discouraged them, yet still providing a discount over other flat rate services for casual web use.

  • >It's called "Illegal Dumping" and is not legal.

    Hence the "illegal" in "Illegal Dumping".

    >Sun is dumping this office suite in the market
    >to hurt Microsoft sales. Yes, I KNOW they did
    >that with explorer, and THAT is why they are in
    >a tangle with the DOJ. Two wrongs don't make a

    Actually, Microsoft was responding to Netscape dumping their browser. People seem to have forgotten that Netscape gained a 90%+ share of the browser market by making their browser free on their website. They subsequently gained the most-visited web page on the internet, and leveraged that for its marketing value.

    I'm not sure what else Microsoft could do to compete with a free product.

    But is Sun really planning on "dumping" StarOffice?

  • Sorry, but this is SO wrong I feel it needs a reply. This is what really happened. I don't think anyone will substantively argue the facts below:

    You obviously weren't using browsers a few years ago, or you'd know that originally, all browsers were free (NCSA Mosaic, Viola, Lynx, Tim Berners-Lee's orginal NeXT browser, etc.)

    Then some of the leading Mosaic developers formed Netscape, and wrote the next-generation graphical browser everybody really wanted. Commercial browsers up to that point were generally repackaged Mosaic or worse, but sold because they had integrated TCP/IP stacks - important back in the Win 3.X days when PCs didn't have IP, and making the pieces work was a pain even if you knew what you were doing (sounds like Linux [grin]) It was free only for personal use - commercial use required paying a license fee, nominally $35/copy, IIRC. Netscape raised the bar and obsoleted all other browsers of the time.

    Microsoft began to see Netscape as a threat and decided they needed a "modern" browser, too. MS contracted with Spyglass, which was the officialy blessed licensing arm for the original NCSA Mosaic source, to pay them a percentage of the revenue from every copy of IE. Then MS decided, right or wrong, to play hardball and shut down Netscape's revenue stream, so they gave away IE **even for commercial use**. Spyglass didn't make much.

    Netscape soon bowed to MS' competitive pressure (it IS hard to compete with free) and began to give away thier browser, which at the time accounted for a fair-sized portion of their revenues. Had this not happened, AOL would likely not have been able to afford to buy Netscape a couple of years later.

    Finally, as was pointed out above, it's only illegal to give away a product at a loss when you do so to either acquire or maintain a "monopoly" position. Microsoft may be a monopoly (the lawyers are still arguing), Sun almost certainly is not.

    As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know - the REST of the story."
  • Is anyone else having problems downloading staroffice from Sun`s website []? Every time I click `download`, it takes me through a series of pages offering to send me a CD. I can`t see anything wrong with the HTML, so what`s going on? (And yes, I am clicking `download` and not `buy CD`, before anyone asks.)
  • If StarOffice bombs.... it's not necessarily a reflection on open source. For, many open source developers (and potential developers) don't trust Sun, don't want to help Sun, and don't like the Community License.

    KOffice should always get more help than StarOffice, because KOffice code is itself GPL, and Qt 2.0 (which KOffice uses) is "Free".
  • I don't think I'd want to try a browser based office suite until Linux has a solid browser. No, Netscape isn't solid. It hasn't run Java properly since 4.08. And don't get me wrong, I download and compile Mozilla Milestones with everyone else, but they still haven't released a stable product yet. Being the only person with a linux workstation it our whole shop is great, until Netscape starts doing bizarre file caching things with pages I'm working on, and everyone snickers and tells me to view it in IE...
    Oh well, I still use latex+XEmacs for generating documents anyway...;)
  • I've looked all over creation for the answer to this. For some reason, my Rawhide box at home runs SO51 just fine, but the RH6 box at work doesn't. Maybe something in glibc broke...

    Dunno about Debian, but I've seen some very mixed claims about SO51's ability to run under Red Hat 6.
  • StarOffice can still kiss my ass, their community license is NOT open-source compliant.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27