Tuesday, July 30, 2002

News.com: Sun to push StarOffice for Apple’s OS X: “…Sun’s stature in the corporate market, StarOffice’s cross-platform support and its ability to work with Office file formats could pose a growing threat to Microsoft. Sun is also considering offering StarOffice for free, where Office v .X typically costs $300 to $500.”

Ok — Office support is fine and dandy, and everyone loves getting something for free, but the third paragraph of the story leads me to believe that we’re looking at market-positioning hype, and not a real product:

“The partnership is expected to produce a Java-based version of OpenOffice by the end of the year, followed by a commercial StarOffice release sometime in 2003.”

Wait a minute? They’re going to port to Java from X11 and then port to Aqua? And they’re releasing the Java version in 2003? <cough/> It won’t be soon enough. Microsoft already has a foothold in the productivity software market on MacOS X, and while StarOffice may be able to open Word documents, I bet it can’t import tasks and mail from Entourage. (Correct me if I’m wrong about this.)

And Java for MacOS X is pretty slow. The Metrowerks Java Runtime for MacOS 9 was almost usable on top-of-the-line Macs, but the runtime that ships with MacOS X is a dog running under a very CPU-intensive OS. I have a hard time imagining that a serious productivity suite built on top of it has a chance winning over the common user who can’t afford a TiBook or a fast G4 desktop machine.

I suspect that what’s really going on here is that Sun has sold Apple some Java snake-oil: We’ll give you StarOffice for free if you put some engineers on our Java runtime to make some performance enhancements and bring the MacOS X runtime up to 2.0.”

In the end will we software consumers ever see usable (and useful) product come from this effort? I for one have my doubts.