As from today, Sun Microsystems as set to launch Star Office 8, the latest version of their productivity suite. This new version promises compatibility with Microsoft Office documents and macros, XML Forms support and various wizards to aid efficiency, and is based on Open Office.

As with Microsoft Office, Star Office offers a word processor, spreadsheet, spreadsheet, drawing application, presentation development program, and a database front end. While the software will run under Windows, Star Office 8's core market is the Open Source Linux community. Many of the leading Linux distributions including Red Hat and SuSe bundle either Start Office or OpenOffice with the operating system.
Sun claims that the latest version of Star Office can read most Word and Excel files created in the latest versions of Micrsoft Office, in a world where compatibility with the Microsoft suite is all important. However, there is not completely one hundred per cent compatibility, and when the next version of Microsoft Office launches next year, there are likely to be further complications.

Compared with Microsoft Office, Star Office is remarkably cheap. StarOffice 8 costs $99.95, though the program can be downloaded for $69.95 from the Sun website. For bulk orders, Sun charges $35 per user. At these prices, it is just possible that some business users will decide to try it out ahead of the scheduled launch of Office 12 at the end of 2006.