Sun Opens StarOffice Code, Delays StarPortal

At the same time, a Sun spokesman confirmed Wednesday 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 License, 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.

The announcement was made at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, which takes place this week in Monterey, California.

StarOffice is a suite of productivity applications originally developed by Star Division Corp. of Germany. Sun acquired Star Division 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 Oct. 13. It will retain the copyright for the source code.

StarOffice 6 will feature a new architecture with separate applications and componentized 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.

Sun had said it would release StarPortal in the first half of 2000, but the product has yet to materialize. A spokesman for Sun in London acknowledged that the product is behind schedule. Sun plans to begin testing a beta of StarPortal with a few hundred users in the next few weeks and hopes to launch the product "at the end of summer." the spokesman said. Summer in England typically ends in September.

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James Niccolai

PC World

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