Sun Microsystems Inc. on Monday denied an online news report that it has decided to charge license fees for the Linux and Windows versions of its StarOffice 6.0 productivity suite when it is released in May.
A report on the German-based Heise online site said Sun has decided that StarOffice 6.0 will only be free for Solaris users and that free versions for Linux and Windows users will no longer be offered.
Sun currently offers StarOffice 5.2 as a free online download or on a CD for a nominal charge.
Sun spokesman Russ Castronovo told eWEEK on Monday that the Cupertino, Calif., company has not made any final determination on the issue of pricing for StarOffice. "While we are talking to current and prospective users about all our options in this regard, absolutely no decision has been made on possible pricing," he said.
But industry sources say it is a near certainty that Sun will start charging some users for the product, with the most likely being those who use the Linux and Windows versions rather than the companys existing Solaris users.
The possibility that Sun will charge for the next version of StarOffice has also been in the air for several months. Last December, eWEEK first broke the news that Sun was considering charging for StarOffice.
Nancy Lee, Suns product line manager for the SunONE Webtop, told eWEEK at that time that some enterprise customers who were considering deploying StarOffice had expressed concern about free status of the software.
"They were concerned about what this might indicate about our long-term commitment to the product," she said. "But the open-source and Linux communities would like us to continue to offer the product for free. We are listening to all sorts of customer feedback, and no decision has been made in this regard as yet."
In an interview with eWEEK at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York in late January, Lee again said that no decision on pricing had been made. But she did not rule out the option of charging users going forward, saying only that Sun was committed to continuing to provide the "most cost-effective desktop productivity suite available."
She reiterated that some enterprise customers who were considering deploying StarOffice had expressed concern about the software being free.
As such, Sun is weighing all the feedback it has received as it considers what pricing model to adopt. But many enterprise customers have also expressed a need for comprehensive support around StarOffice, and Sun is considering a complete set of support offerings for enterprises, which would be a revenue resource, Lee said at LinuxWorld.
Interest in StarOffice 6.0 remains strong, Lee said, adding that there has been some 900,000 downloads of the beta thus far, with about 15 percent of these being for the Asian language version. In addition, some 8 million copies have been downloaded in the two years that Sun has offered the product, she said.