Nearly 2 years after Google and Sun Microsystems announced a much hyped software distribution partnership to compete with Microsoft Office, the search giant has reportedly started distributing StarOffice, as part of the Google Pack service.

Google Pack now numbers 13 Windows applications including programs such as Skype, RealPlayer, Adobe Reader and Spyware Doctor, along with several apps owned by Google itself. Typically, a new product being added to the pack wouldn't warrant much interest, however, while StarOffice normally costs $70 to download, Google is distributing it free-of-charge devoid of technical support from Sun.

StarOffice boasts a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation tool, a personal database, and other workplace-oriented tools. The move could be seen as a challenge to the dominance of Microsoft Office, although users already have free access to OpenOffice.org, an open source suite that uses the same base StarOffice code. On the online front, Google has also been trying to wean users off Microsoft Office by offering browser-based word processor and spreadsheet apps, and it will soon add a browser-based presentation tool, too.