Sun Microsystems is calling for volunteers to test the latest beta of its StarOffice suite.
The StarOffice version 6.1 beta programme is due to begin next week and Sun is seeking small and medium-sized businesses, developers, system administrators and general users to trial the new version, which it wants to try out across Windows, Linux and its own Solaris operating system.
Mark Botherway, managing director of Sun distributor SolNet, says pilots of version 6.0 are going on in a couple of government departments, “and we’re looking to get them to 6.1".
SolNet also has “a couple of fairly big private sector clients” trialing version 6.0. “They’re looking at creative ways of using the technology.”
Last year Sun started charging customers with the release of version 6.0, but at a substantially lower rate than its rival, industry standard Microsoft Office. Previously, Sun’s offering had been free and open source.
Botherway says support is part of the charge and the open source version of Sun’s office suite, OpenOffice, is still available and “remains attractive to some markets”.
Starting this year, Auckland University is offering students a choice between StarOffice and Microsoft Office.
University IT systems and services director Stephen Whiteside says StarOffice was offered “because Sun has some imaginative licensing which allows us to license it for our students, which is very attractive”. StarOffice is licensed per user, not per PC as Microsoft Office is, meaning licensed users can make up to five copies and students can put a copy on their home computer.
Licensing costs for MS Office are considerable, says Whiteside. “And while they’re not the sum total of what we spend with Microsoft, they’re a fair chunk.”
StarOffice 6.0 uses XML, which helps compact the size of files and allows seamless transfer of files between users running it on different operating systems, but overall it is less feature-rich than MS Office.
Phil Burnham, analyst at Australian researcher Inform, says that across the Tasman StarOffice has comprised 0.2% of office suite sales so far this year, with Office XP accounting for 98%.