Sony to Bundle StarOffice in Europe

Sun's StarOffice will replace Microsoft Works on Sony desktop computer systems in seven European countries.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has snared another vendor to distribute its StarOffice 6.0 desktop office productivity suite.

The latest deal with Sony Information Technology Europe involves bundling StarOffice on Sony desktop computer systems in seven European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The move replaces Microsoft Corp.s Works package on most of those lines and makes yet another dent in its dominance in the desktop office productivity market.

This latest Sun deal follows recent moves by both Hewlett-Packard Co., the worlds largest PC manufacturer, and Dell Computer Corp., the second-largest, to offer Canadian software developer Corel Corp.s word processing package, WordPerfect 10, and spreadsheet application, Quattro Pro 10, with some of their computer lines.

Earlier this year, Sony Corp. also agreed to ship Corels WordPerfect on a range of its PCs, from budget to high-end machines.

Nancy Lee, Suns group product manager for office productivity in Santa Clara, Calif., told eWeek on Thursday that the current Sony deal is "just a starting point and we expect our relationship to expand to other territories, including the U.S. The tide is clearly turning as more and more PC OEM vendors are bundling alternative office suites," she said.

Lee said the latest deal reflects the momentum around StarOffice globally, with more than 20 large OEMs now distributing it, including Hyundai Multi-CAV Europe Ltd., which bundles StarOffice in select global locations. Sun is also talking to all the leading PC OEM vendors and "hoped" to see more such deals in the future.

But some Linux vendors have balked at paying for StarOffice. Red Hat Inc., the leading distributor of Linux desktop and server software, has refused to bundle StarOffice 6, choosing the free desktop productivity suite instead.

German-based SuSE Linux also recently dropped StarOffice 6.0 in SuSE Linux 8.1, the latest version of its Linux operating system for personal and business computers. But it is making StarOffice available to those users who want it as a separate offering, known as SuSE Linux Pro-Office.

Lee said that on the retail side Sun is expecting annual sales of some 500,000 copies of StarOffice 6.0, and is already hard at work on the next version, which is expected to ship in the third quarter of 2003.

"We are also working on a development kit targeted at enterprises that want to customize StarOffice for their own environments or integrate it into their existing system infrastructure. This will be part of the next release of StarOffice and is something many enterprises will need as they deploy the product," she said.

Sun is also working with the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, to make the XML file formats used in and StarOffice an industry standard, she said.