StarOffice Suite Switches From Free to Fee
After giving away free downloads of its
In an announcement, Sun says that its
Mike Rogers, a vice president of office and desktop productivity applications at the company, says the move is being made because StarOffice user companies have said they would be willing to pay for the software if it came with support.
"We've responded to the feedback," he says. "We want people to use this product ... and adopt it."
While Sun will discontinue its free downloads of StarOffice when it
begins selling the suite in May, it will continue to enable no-charge downloads
of the open-source OpenOffice.org version of the application, which is
available through the OpenOffice.org project. Sun will continue to support the
development of the open-source product through
The two products aren't identical, but offer substantially the same source code, he says. The major differences are that the free version doesn't include third-party features, including some fonts, filters, and foreign language tools. "In many cases, the features will be there, but they won't be identical features," Rogers says.
By providing the retail and business versions of the suite, along with the free open-source version, Sun will serve both ends of the market, he says. Sun had nearly 1 million download requests for StarOffice 6.0 beta in just three months, he says.
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says that charging for the suite could give Sun some credibility among enterprise decision-makers who might have previously looked away from the suite because it was free.
"The problem with a free product is no one really believes you're going to stick with it" as a manufacturer, Enderle says. "Corporate users want something they can wrap their arms around" that has a viable business model.
Enderle says that Sun may get some traction with the new fee-based suite, because many corporate customers are still angry at Microsoft in connection with the higher licensing fees it announced for its Microsoft Office suite last year. "The customers took it as a tax increase" for using Microsoft's products, he says.
But another analyst, Joshua Greenbaum at Enterprise Application Consulting in Daly City, California, calls Sun's move "much ado about nothing."
"Without a doubt, the Microsoft monopoly [in the
Sun says it will continue to distribute StarOffice 6.0 through agreements with hardware OEMs, Linux distributors, and software vendors. The retail boxed version will include a software CD and user manual, Web-based training, and a bundled support incident certificate.
StarOffice includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawing, Web publishing, charting, formula-editing, and database uses. The suite is available for Windows, Linux, and Sun Solaris operating systems.