Office Intrigue: Sun Microsystems and Google are Dating

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Sun Microsystems and Google are getting a lot of press after their announcement last week of a collaborative effort to promote Sun's open-source software. The announcement on October 4, 2005, unveiled an agreement in which Sun will include the Google Toolbar as an option in its consumer downloads of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

More significant to IT managers, however, is that Google has agreed to begin collaborating with Sun to develop and enhance some of Sun's programming technologies. This includes the JRE and the OpenOffice software suite.

StarOffice and OpenOffice

This announcement follows on the heels of Sun's release of Version 8 of its StarOffice on September 27, 2005. StarOffice is the commercially licensed, enterprise-level suite of office productivity tools that Sun has been developing through, an open-source project that Sun initiated last year, is engaged in the creation of a multiplatform and multilingual office suite that's compatible with all other major office suites. While individual users can download the basic suite of OpenOffice for free, licensed StarOffice Version 8 has Sun's add-on enhancements designed for the enterprise.

Chicken or Egg: Which Came First?

Sun was not the originator of StarOffice. This suite was developed by StarDivision, a software company based in Germany. In 1999, Sun bought StarDivision, and Version 5.2 of StarOffice was released under Sun's boilerplate in 2000.

In 2002, Sun released the C++ code for StarOffice to a newly initiated, Sun-sponsored open-source organization called The mission of is to create, as a community, an international office suite that can run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component-based APIs and an XML-based file format.

The OpenOffice suite thus began by numbering its release versions from 1.0 (based upon the StarOffice source code) while Sun continued to sell the commercially licensed version of OpenOffice as StarOffice by continuing the release numbering that it had already established. As a result, OpenOffice is now at Version 2 at the same time that StarOffice is at Version 8, even though they are both running the same underlying base code.

This versioning minutia is important because of a controversy that is currently running in the open-source community about OpenOffice Version 2.

OpenOffice Version 2 Controversy

Version 1.1 of OpenOffice was written almost entirely in C++. Version 2, by comparison, has come to rely heavily upon the JRE.

Writing OpenOffice V2 with more Java has distinct advantages. First, it's a more transparent language for creating cross-platform applications than C++. Second, it's a faster development language than C++, with a lot better reusability of code.

However, the problem with OpenOffice Version 2, from an open-source perspective, is that it increasingly relies on the Sun Microsystems JRE. And while the source code and the application itself for OpenOffice may be free to non-commercial users, the JRE is not.

Sun's Proprietary Java Runtime

You may recall that several years ago Sun Microsystems began the process of submitting Java to the various standards organizations to be an open standard. It was doing this during the period that it was also in a legal battle with Microsoft because Microsoft was altering the JRE code that it was shipping with Internet Explorer. Sun seemed to be positioning itself as an open-standards hero within the public eye, battling a giant corporation that was turning the promise of Java into yet another proprietary Microsoft property. At least, that was the comic book version of the conflict.

However, as soon as Sun got a favorable court indictment against Microsoft, it almost immediately withdrew Java from consideration by the international standards organizations. Instead, Sun said that it would retain proprietary ownership of the JRE while it "explored the possibilities" of opening up the environment to the developer community.

In this light, the initiative might be seen as a shill for Sun's continued domination of the Java world. But from Sun's perspective, it merely represents its continued commitment to compete with Microsoft Windows within a new and promising realm of cross-platform application-enablement software. Sun wants that new realm to be the JRE.

Unfortunately, the conundrum for open-source developers is simply this: "How open is a piece of software that requires a proprietary runtime environment? Is it truly open, or will customers be later hit with rising licensing fees for the underlying code of the Java Runtime Environment?"

Making Sun Google

Google's entry into this Office intrigue truly raises the stakes against Microsoft. Microsoft has historically marketed its MS Office productivity suites with a simple statement: "You can't get all the office productivity and compatibility of Microsoft Office without the Microsoft Windows operating system."

The latest versions of OpenOffice and StarOffice software are really challenging that homogeneous Microsoft assertion, and now Google--fresh with cash from its successful IPO--can help. It can help by furthering the development of OpenOffice and the JRE. It can help by funding and by offering programming resources. In the end, it could be a win-win situation for both organizations.

ROI: Cost, Functionality, and Compatibility

For IT organizations with lots of MS Office users, Sun claims that the cost of licensing StarOffice is 75% less expensive than the cost of licensing Microsoft Office. Furthermore, if you consider that StarOffice will run on open-source Linux, Sun believes the cost differential further enhances the value of StarOffice.

Sun also believes it's starting to achieve a critical mass with the number of installations of its open-source product. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is reported to be considering the product as a cost-effective alternative to the rising license fees of Microsoft. In addition, the open-source environment is being heavily pushed as a high ROI solution within e-government IT infrastructures in China and Europe.

Consequently, as Microsoft continues to push forward with its plans to completely overhaul the Windows operating system in its next release--including its licensing prices--the offerings of open-source Linux combined with productivity tools like OpenOffice take on new luster. If OpenOffice and StarOffice prove to be truly compatible with the current versions of Microsoft Office, Microsoft will have to push harder to provide better, more productive features in its next release of the Office product. If it does not, corporations and customers won't want to ante up the increased licensing fees.

Now that's an office intrigue we'd all like to see.

Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press Online.

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is an independent IT analyst and writer. He is the former Editor in Chief of MC Press Online and Midrange Computing magazine and has over 20 years of experience as a programmer, systems engineer, IT director, industry analyst, author, speaker, consultant, and editor.  


Tom works from his home in the Napa Valley in California. He can be reached at





Support MC Press Online





  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things

    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!


  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!


  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.


  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.


  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:

    • Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
    • How leading organizations are coping
    • Where automation will make the biggest impact


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails


  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    FortraRobot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    FortraRobot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.