Sun opens StarOffice code, delays StarPortal

Sun Microsystems has announced it will release the source code for its StarOffice suite of productivity applications, a move that will allow software developers to modify the product to suit their needs.

At the same time, a Sun spokesman confirmed that a Web-based version of the software suite, called StarPortal, is still being tested and will not be delivered for several weeks. Sun had originally said that it would release StarPortal in the first half of this year.

The StarOffice code will be released under the GNU General Public Licence, a popular open-source licensing model. It will be available on the Web at http://www.OpenOffice.org/, which will also serve as the coordination point for the code, the definition of file formats based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), and the definition of language-independent office application programming interfaces (APIs), Sun said.

StarOffice is a suite of productivity applications originally developed by Star Division of Germany, which Sun acquired in August 1999 and began offering the software suite for free. It includes programs for word processing, spreadsheets and the like.

The open-source version will be based on StarOffice version 6, an upgrade to the current product that is still being developed. Sun said it expects to be able to release the source code on October 13. It will retain the copyright for the source code.

StarOffice 6 will feature a new architecture with separate applications and componentised services, which should make the applications easier to manipulate. The software suite is available currently for Solaris, Windows and Linux, with a Macintosh version due by the end of the year.

While StarOffice has attracted some attention, more focus has been put on StarPortal, a future version of the product that users will be able to access over the Internet. While StarOffice resides on a desktop, StarPortal can be hosted on a server by a business or an application service provider (ASP) and accessed using a Web browser. Microsoft is developing a server-based version of Microsoft Office, its own suite of productivity applications.

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