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Hello everyone, I'm sorry for the volume of emails lately but you've got to read this. I promise not to send anything else this week (g).

A FREE Full-Blown Office Suite?

Sun's "StarOffice" is a well-developed, smooth-running, good- looking and nicely integrated package comprising a word processor and web-page editor, spreadsheet, database, calendar/scheduler, presentation maker, drawing and graphics tools, an email client, newsgroup reader, and a browser.

It's also 100% free.

Indeed, Sun made international news last week when it started giving away its StarOffice. It's a gutsy move that-- -despite Sun CEO Scott McNealy's protests to the contrary--- may do to Microsoft what Microsoft did to Netscape.

Let me explain: By giving away Internet Explorer, Microsoft knocked the legs out from one of Netscape's revenue streams. (Netscape allowed people to test-drive beta/evaluation browsers for free, but charged $50 for a license.) Now, by giving away StarOffice, Sun is potentially knocking the legs out from Microsoft's lucrative Office line, which accounts for a hefty 40% of Microsoft's overall income.

I've been using StarOffice for several days now, and I have to say I like it. Because I just recently paid for Microsoft Office 2000, I'm not sure I'm ready to make the switch to Sun's suite. But if I were just now approaching an upgrade cycle, I'd give StarOffice serious consideration. How could I not, at a price of exactly $0.00?

Price alone might be enough to attract many users, but there's more. StarOffice also includes StarDesktop: a shell that replaces your Windows desktop. When StarOffice is running, you don't see any of Microsoft's offerings on your screen. Even the Start button and task bar look different. In fact, the only visual clue you have that you`re still in Windows is the System Tray, which Star Office doesn't interfere with.

In fact, StarOffice doesn't remove or interfere with any part of Windows---it just disguises it. It's an interesting echo of the tactic Microsoft used to promote its early versions of IE and MSN, when it placed its own browser and online service on the Windows desktop, and kept competitors available, but out of sight.

StarOffice is an interesting and real competitor to Microsoft Office in its own right; but given the fact that it's free and that its operation weans its users away from Microsoft's visual dominance of the desktop. well, if I were Bill Gates, I'd be worried.

Scott McNealy says it's not his goal to unseat Microsoft. (Yeah, right.) I think McNealy actually hopes to put Microsoft in Netscape's position, and Sun in Microsoft's.

StarOffice and indeed Sun's whole giveaway gambit is the focus of my column this week at InformationWeek Online. There, you'll find lots more information on the product (including a much-more fleshed-out version of this column, a screen shot, and download and CD-ordering instructions) as well as more info on the tactic itself---which has the potential to be a turning point in the history of office- suite software.

What's your take? Have you tried StarOffice, or do you plan to? How do you rate its features? What do you think of Sun's gambit in giving it away, for free? Is McNealy only interested in selling servers, or is he trying to significantly weaken Microsoft? And, most importantly, will it work? Join in the discussion going on right now at !

Today (9/9/99) Is A Y2K-Type Milestone

Back in the 1960's, when the Y2K bug (caused by using a 2-digit date shorthand) was being created, programmers also took another s hortcut: They would sometimes use the then-unimaginable date of 9999 as a flag to mark files or records for deletion; to mark error conditions; and so on.

Y2K scaremongers suggested that today--- 9-9-99---would cause a sort of mini-Y2K meltdown for us all as old mainframes incorrectly interpret the date as some internal system flag.

Well, if you're reading this, clearly not too much has happened. In fact, I'll bet that today passes with as few date-related software hassles as did the date last month when the worldwide GPS system had *its* date problem: the GPS satellite clocks ended a 1024-week cycle and restarted from zero. A few very early GPS systems were affected, mostly in Japan, but everything else breezed on without a glitch.

And you know, that's exactly what I think will happen on January 1st of next year: a few relatively minor glitches, and that's it.

(NOTE: I don't agree with the 01/01/2000 statment above!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ TIPS & TRICKS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ _____________________________________
 Windows 98 Second Edition: A Better Way to Save Files to Your Desktop

Word 2000: Prevent Macros from Running when You Start Word

FrontPage 2000: Determine Your Pages' Download Speeds Easily

Internet Explorer 5: Instantly Launch a New Browser Window

Excel 2000: View Data Ranges At a Glance with a Custom Zoom

BILL GATES' WEB SITE Find out the background and interests of Microsoft's CEO and Chairman; read transcripts of his speeches, essays, and columns; and discover how he and his wife Melinda are supporting important causes around the world.

That's it! If you need an office suite I suggest you take a look at Star Office. I don't use an office suite myself but I have heard/read many good things about this. Till next time...


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Last Revised: 10/23/2000
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