Sun Microsystems Inc. confirmed Tuesday that it will charge users for the next version of its desktop productivity suite, StarOffice. Mike Rogers, Suns vice president and general manager of desktop and office productivity, in Cupertino, Calif., said that the Sun-branded version of StarOffice 6.0 will not be offered as a free download from Suns site when it becomes available in May.
StarOffice is Suns open-source suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications for Solaris, Windows and Linux platforms.
Rogers declined to give specific pricing and licensing details, saying these would be announced closer to the product release in May. But he said the software would be provided on a tiered, per-user structure to keep StarOffice as the "most affordable desktop productivity suite."
StarOffice 6.0 will include service and support contracts for help desk and end-users as well as training, software upgrades and deployment and migration services.
Suns decision to charge is based on research that showed enterprise users were not adopting StarOffice 5.2, the current version of the product, in a significant way because they questioned Suns commitment to a product it was giving away for free and which did not come with support and training, Rogers told eWEEK in an interview.
"People want to know that a company will step up and stand behind a product for the long term. These are not decisions that are made lightly at the enterprise level. What we heard loud and clear from them is that we needed to bundle support, offer training as well as migration and deployment services," he said.
Sun will direct sell StarOffice 6.0 into the enterprise through its own sales force and continue to distribute the product through hardware OEMs, Linux distributors and software vendors. The product will also be offered through various retail channels at a cost of less than $100 a copy, he said.
The retail package would include a software CD and user manual, some 60-days of Web-based training, support for a single incident or problem, and availability on the Linux, Solaris and Windows platforms, he said.
Sun currently offers StarOffice 5.2 as a free online download or on a CD for a nominal charge. However, "a build of the [6.0] product will still be available for free download from the OpenOffice.org Web site," Rogers said. "But this will not be an identical product as some technologies like certain file filters, some of the special fonts and some of the linguistic technologies found in StarOffice will not be part of the OpenOffice build."
This is primarily due to the fact that the technologies are proprietary and under license and could therefore not be open sourced by Sun. The open source community had stepped in and were working on providing those missing elements in the OpenOffice version. OpenOffice.org is the site that hosts the StarOffice source code.
"So, the two products will be similar but not identical bit for bit. StarOffice will thus become the product with the Sun brand on it, with bundled support and training and with a commitment from us to stand behind the product and commit to future releases. This product has a roadmap that includes the version that evolves for Web services and ties into SunONE," he said.
"So were now satisfying the needs of both marketplaces: those who want a free version of the product with no support and those who are prepared to pay for a packaged offering that includes support and training. Sun is committed to an OpenOffice build of the product as we move forward with future releases," he said.
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