As the tenth anniversary of Sun Microsystems' StarOffice acquisition approaches it grows increasingly difficult to fathom what Sun intends for its suite. Sun this week released a minor upgrade based on the latest iteration of OpenOffice - version 2.3 and unveiled a bunch of plug-in extensions that appear useful enough. One …
I've always questioned the relevance of StarOffice since I discovered that OpenOffice was built on it but I never knew the revenue was given to charity. Interesting.
These are valid points. There are more differences between StarOffice and OpenOffice than just clipart and fonts - for example there are licensed filters in the former which are either missing or free alternatives in the latter, there are migration tools and access to professional services, and so on.
These may be of interest to power users or IT managers, but I don't think the main target audience is too fussed about them. As long as it can open and save documents, and handle stuff from MS Office, that's all most people seem to care about. And OpenOffice does that admirably.
Some documents don't work properly - I have some Excel documents here full of long, complex formulas and macros - but then these don't work in either OpenOffice or StarOffice, so no points to the latter there either.
Sun's interest is in breaking the M$ near-monopoly on office suites and corporate PC operating systems. Sun's core business is hardware, not office suites. But if customers have a bigger choice of OS, and can use Star Office on a Solaris or Linux box, Sun can sell more hardware.
And there are two versions because that is what the market requires. Open Office because it is a free download, you can't compete without that, and Star Office because many corporate customers have an aversion to free, open source software. They want to pay someone for everything, so they have a throat to choke when it breaks...
Why Sun bought StarOffice
Sun bought StarOffice so it didn't have to pay license fees to Microsoft for Office/Windows. Prior to this, Sun employees had dual boot Solaris/Windows machines. Windows was not allowed to touch Sun's network, so to read a Word attachment, they had to download it using Solaris, then reboot to Windows.
Turns you pc into fax machine
Next they'll have a plugin that allows your pc to connect to the "Internet".
re Why Sun bought StarOffice
I don't believe that Sun bought StarOffice primarily for internal use.
Before Sun bought StarOffice the internal office suite was Framemaker and before that Interleaf (or the other way around). StarOffice was also used before Sun purchased the company.
I've also heard stories of people submitting CV's to Sun in StarOffice and being asked to re submit in word. Probably as the screening function is/was outsourced.
Surely turning a pc into a fax machine is the equivalent of bricking a phone?
Has StarOffice succeeded?
According to Wikipedia Sun bought StarOffice because it was cheaper to buy StarDivision than pay for 42,000 Office licenses and Windows laptops - there is not a citation for this claim so it remains to be seen whether it's true. Quite why you wouldn't just buy StarOffice licenses in the first place remains unexplained. As an OpenOffice user myself I do quite like the product but there can be no doubt it's mass take-up has been a failure. It looks and feels old-fashioned and is years behind Office 2007 that I use at work. Other than removing the StarOffice "Start" button the package is substantially the same as it was - things like its Bibliograhy support and Gallery are just appallingly bad. Even the "Change Case" feature in Writer can only do upper or lower (not sentence or title) that MS Office has been able to for 8 years or so.
In my experience people use OpenOffice for only two reasons, either ideological (they won't use Microsoft) or financial (they can't afford Office, like me). After ten years everyone should be using OpenOffice but they aren't and probably never will. The innovation and quality just isn't there.
There is another NEW reason
I've seen a number of people (admittedly most recommended by me) take up Open Office, because they're a bit set in their ways, and just can't get a grasp on the new user interface in Office 2007.
Although the interface in OpenOffice is different to Office 2003 and below, it's a lot less different than 2007, and the training to get people used to using OpenOffice is a lot easier than training them to use 2007's ribbon.
At least that's my opinion, and as I have to arrange training for these people, it's a fairly valid opinion, and may infact drag the whole company over to OpenOffice, the only sticking point is Presenter, the sales people just can't do all that they want to do in it compared to PowerPoint :-(
Very useful if you work on digital documents but the recipient is in the 3rd world and only has a fax.
!Begging The Question
Last paragraph: "it begs the questions..." No, it raises the questions.
For correct usage of the phrase "begging the question", please see http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=beg%20the%20question .
Why Sun bought Staroffice
I can assure everyone that Sun bought StarOffice because they wanted to sell more workstations. In 1998, workstations were still a large product line for Sun (but getting smaller), and one advantage that PC's had was that they had the productivity tools that the workstations didn't. Not only would StarOffice keep Sun on par with PC's but it would separate them further from H-P and IBM. Internal use was actually a negative as Scott McNealy was on record at the time saying that creating a word document was a waste of time when an e-mail would do just fine.
The plan was to make money on the deal by selling support, but in fact, the profit was made by driving a better deal with MSFT on the legal suit settlement.
Yes, quite useful if you don't have a printer capable of handling that automatically for you. And oddly enough even a PC can handle taking a fax and continuing to do other things at the same time - like playing WoW for instance.
I'll admit it is surprising to see a couple pages spit out of the printer in the middle of a raid, but mostly it doesn't affect me that much.
It also gives me a work angle.
"What were you doing all day?"
"Handling all our faxes and delivering them to their recipients.. eventually."
Which is true. Every time we take a five minute break I will distribute the paper that pops out of my printer, sometimes even to the right people.
Applixware was the office suite deployed internally at Sun when Star Division was acquired. Laptop users (sales reps, execs) will also have had Windows, but it is simply incorrect to say that 42,000 Sun employees were issed with Windows laptops simply in order to use MS Office.
What does it really lack?
"It looks and feels old-fashioned and is years behind Office 2007 that I use at work."
What can Office 2007 do that OpenOffice cannot for supporting document creation? I'm genuinely curious, since I find that OpenOffice already has more features than I find I need, even for complex software documents.
(Ignore MS Office file format compatibilty issues for this question, since that is not any problem, when all users in an organization use OpenOffice for a particular project).
"Looking old-fashioned" is also a non-issue for professional work. My PC keyboard also looks much the same as the one I used 20 years ago. Jazzing it up would not help my productivity.
purchased in 1998?
Sorry, I came late, but Sun bought StarDivision in August 1999. In geologic time perhaps, we're approaching a 10 year anniversary, but not in the real world. And as the guy who ran the acquisition, let me say that SUNW did not buy 42000 PC's to run Office. At the time, you had to have serious juice to get a whiff of a PC. No, as someone else said, the main reason was to help workstation sales. And if you look at what Sun got out of its other acquisitions at the time, the StarDivision buy was one of the better ones.