Sun Microsystems' free office product suite, Star Office, is nothing but a powerful publicity stunt that enterprises should steer well clear of, according to a leading analyst.
Sun launched the suite of tools, available licence free either from its website or widely available CD-Roms, in October. The tools were acquired through Sun's acquisition of Star Division in August.
But Gartner Group analyst Michael Gartenberg today told users that Sun's claims that the product is free and that it is fully compatible with Microsoft Office are well wide of the mark.
"If you believe this is free, you are fooling yourself," said Gartenberg. "This is merely a very powerful publicity stunt."
Gartenberg said enterprise users would end up paying for the product, even though the actual software is free, through support and maintenance charges.
"This should be absolutely the bottom of the enterprise shortlist. Even Sun isn't viewing this as an enterprise product," he said, adding that Sun is targeting the product at consumers to tie them into its Web portal offering, called Star Portal.
"That's not to say it's a bad product, but neither are the others. I urge you to look at Microsoft Office or Smartsuite," he said.
Star Office's compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats is also questionable, said Gartenberg.
"Any vendor that tells you they are fully compatible with Microsoft Office is lying, because even Microsoft's own products aren't always compatible," he said.
However, Sun has ambitious plans for the product. It is distributing it widely at trade shows, including the recent Telecom 99 show in Geneva, and wants PC vendors to pre-load it onto their machines.
Talking in October, Marco Boerries, head of Sun's application software group, said "the days would soon be over" for the classical business model.
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