Sun Microsystems will soon respond to the release of Microsoft Office System Beta 2 with a beta release of its own--the beta 1 release of StarOffice 6.1. Sun says it will make this first beta publicly available from the company's Web site within a week, offering users their first look at the upcoming suite. Sun will issue a second, private beta in May, then issue the final version of StarOffice 6.1 in the fall.
StarOffice 6.1 includes new business-oriented deployment and management tools that Sun hopes will make the suite more enterprise-friendly. In addition, each of the applications in the suite can now save directly to Adobe PDF format for easy Web distribution. As before, the Sun suite is based on the free OpenOffice.org suite and includes word processing, spreadsheet, drawing, presentation, and HTML-editing applications.
Despite starting at a severe disadvantage--Microsoft controls about 95 percent of the office productivity market--Sun has made inroads in the past 12 months thanks to low prices, Microsoft Office compatibility, and giveaways for various educational institutions, governments, and other organization. Sun has also targeted markets that simply can't afford Microsoft software, such as those in developing countries, the Far East, and Latin America.