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Sun to announce purchase of Star Linux outfit

As rumoured earlier, the German developer is becoming a sunbeam...

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The rumour (see story) that Sun was going to buy Star Division for its office suite will probably be confirmed tomorrow. Sun said it will be making a significant strategic announcement on Tuesday in New York, and has been doing some behind-the-scenes briefings. It is now believed that the deal was signed on 11 August. Last year, Star Division moved its HQ from Hamburg to Freemont, California, and in recent months has stopped talking about the IPO it had been planning for 1999. The StarOffice package is currently offered for a broad range of platforms - Solaris, Sparc, x86, Linux, Java, OS/2 and Windows 3.x, 9.x and NT. The Linux and Java versions will be particularly important for Sun's needs. Sun's motivation for the deal would include selling more hardware by giving away client software, although server version are not expected to be free. It is unlikely that Sun has any immediate ambition of becoming a desktop vendor. Equally important to Sun is the boost that the move could give to Java. Corel had a brave attempt with WordPerfect for Java, but it was too soon and too slow. If StarOffice is a success, it is conceivable that Corel will offer another version, with the likely result being that the two products could extend the market rather than merely divide it. Sun is believed to be aiming Star at the consumer and small business market. With Sun offering serious Ultra 5 workstations for $2,500, the addition of an office package makes the combination more attractive. Sun's new thin-client Corona (earlier story) is now expected to be announced on 8 September at Sun's Enterprise Computing Forum. Sun evidently hopes that what is in effect Java Station II will be more successful than its predecessor as a result of the software deal. Microsoft's Office is clearly too expensive for a widening thin-client market: the Windows-only package looks like a forlorn offering in an age of heterogeneity. Confirmation that the Star deal looks good is seen in a highly-negative reaction from Ziff Davis' anchordesk person Jesse "give me a second ... I'm thinking" Berst, who spluttered that the deal was "the dumbest thing", labelled McNealy a hypocrite, and Corel a failure for attempting to compete with MS Office. The response to his piece was, overwhelmingly, that the dumb one was Berst. The acquisition of Forte Software by Sun earlier this week for $540 million strengthens Sun's tools offerings, but since Sun said it did not intend to merge Forte's pure Java SynerJ Server and would carry on with iPlanet as the only runtime, the price seems a bit high. SynerJ supports CORBA and COM, and links solidly to middleware and applications. What can be next in Sun's stellar world after reaching for a Star and developing a Corona: not an eclipse, surely? ®

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