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Is XML in your productivity suite's future?

Star Office uses it. Will Office be far behind?

XML Developer Tip

Is XML in your productivity suite's future?
Ed Tittel

In a recent announcement, Sun Microsystems indicated that its StarOffice 6.0 office productivity suite was released for general consumption on 5/21/2002. This suite of standard office applications runs on a variety of operating systems including Linux, Solaris, and Windows, and includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics, and database modules. Why do I mention it here in an XML tip? Because it uses XML for its own internal file formats, but also because it leverages Microsoft's use of similar file formats to provide a hitherto unmatched degree of interoperability between the two environments (that is, between Sun's StarOffice and Microsoft's MS Office applications and formats).

Unlike previous editions, StarOffice must now be licensed from Sun Microsystems for a fee, which ranges from its MSRP of $75.95 to anywhere from $25 to $50 per seat for enterprise licensing agreements. But when compared to the MSRP for MS Office XP of $479 and MS Office XP Professional at $579, it's a pretty major bargain. According to a variety of trade press reports from magazines like InfoWorld, Windows and .NET, and so forth, numerous large enterprises are considering their options in light of this pricing differential. For more information on StarOffice, see Robin Cover's summary and pointers at

But what's really most interesting to me is that underlying use of XML makes it easy for buyers and users to accept a heightened degree of interoperability between these packages, and actually adds credibility to Sun's offerings. In fact, lack of XML support is a key characteristics that applies to the Open Source productivity suite known as Open Office--which is an Open Source project based on StarOffice code for version 5.2 donated by Sun Microsystems to (see for a discussion of differences between StarOffice 6.0 and the OpenOffice/StarOffice 5.2 code base).

Although I'm not sure that Sun would agree with my assessment that support for XML-file formats is the most important differentiating factor between StarOffice 6.0 and Open Office 5.2, I'm sure it's a feature that will weigh heavily on future adoption decisions for StarOffice. It should also help to make the transition from MS Office to StarOffice easier to swallow for those who find themselves making the move some time in the future. What remains to be seen--and what I plan to watch with considerable interest--is the uptake in StarOffice business in the next 6-12 months. This should be especially interesting if recent reports that future MS Office versions will switch to a monthly subscription model (aka "software rental") prove true. Of all the things that XML has made possible, this might just be among the most interesting for all parties concerned! In fact, I'll also be surprised if OpenOffice doesn't also move to XML-based file formats in the future.

About the Author

Ed Tittel is a principal at LANWrights, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of LANWrights offers training, writing, and consulting services on Internet, networking, and Web topics (including XML and XHTML), plus various IT certifications (Microsoft, Sun/Java, and Prosoft/CIW).

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