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Sun wants, and expects, to see StarOffice 6.1 "on the shelves of Fry's, CompuUSA and BestBuy" when the suite is released this Fall.

StarOffice product manager Iyer Venkatesan confirmed to us on Friday that a beta would be released this week, with the final gold release slated for October.

So far, the consumer market hasn't been a focus for Sun. It has succeeded in bundling StarOffice with Sony's PCs, but only in Europe, and it wants more OEM partners.

The open source equivalent to Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose will retain all eight engines, however. Venkatesan said there had been little interest in Sun's offer to separate the applications into discrete installs, and most users simply installed the entire suite.

New features include a save-to-PDF function and Flash export from the Impress and Draw modules. There will also be an ActiveX control to allow users to view StarOffice and Microsoft Office files in a Windows web browser.

Right-to-left language localisations such as Arabic and Hebrew will be added after the final release, which will initially support five European and four Asian languages (Japanese, two Chinese and Korean) out of the box.

Sun targets StarGoose at the Solaris, Windows and Linux platforms, and leaves it up to the OpenOffice project to provide support for alt.oses.

Asked if the leviathan suite would be any brisker this time round, Venkatesan said that, as a point release, 6.1 will improve "stability and performance". But he couldn't say by how much.

Still, it can't be all bad.

"I actually used Open Office to fix a broken Word Document for my brother that Word would not open," an old friend mailed me last week. "So kudos to them, really." ®

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