In a separate announcement, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company also said it has turned down an invitation to join the Eclipse consortium for development of open source tools, citing a conflict of interest with IBM. This is not surprising, considering that the Eclipse name itself was intended as a snide affront on Sun's tool business by Big Blue and that Sun has owned the competing NetBeans tool franchise for years.
"The unprecedented growth of StarOffice and Open Office.org show that suites are here to stay," said Curtis Sasaki, Sun's vice president for desktop solutions. "As a key driver of the Open Office.org community, Sun is in an excellent position to provide comprehensive support."
Sun said that it will offer OpenOffice.org users free first-incidence support via its U.S. and international support call center. The U.S. number is (800) 574-3572.
"Sun Microsystems will announce the pricing for OpenOffice.org support shortly," said Sun spokeswoman Marie Domingo. "In the meantime, customers can continue using the Free Community Support resources available at Support.OpenOffice.org."
Charges for further levels of support will be announced "in a few days," said Robbie Turner, a Sun service executive. "We imagine that they will be similar to the support charges for StarOffice," she added. "We just have a few details to iron out."
Sun donated the source code for StarOffice.com in July 2000 to OpenOffice.org. More than 40 million copies of the office productivity software and the commercial version, StarOffice, have been downloaded since.
StarOffice, now in version 7.0, and OpenOffice 1.1 share the same source code, but StarOffice includes management controls and other enterprise-level features that OpenOffice does not. Since Sun acquired the German-originated StarOffice company from founder Marco Boerries in 1999, it has afforded full technical support to its customers.
Why did Sun wait so long to add support for the free version of the software? After all, it appears to be a no-brainer revenue stream for a company that has had its nasty financial problems spelled out regularly in the media.
"Well, people weren't exactly breaking down our doors asking for help early on," Turner said. "Most of the people who were using OpenOffice at the outset were individuals, not companies, and those people knew pretty much how to use it already. Now, with such a huge distribution, and with companies really beginning to use it, we think the time is right and that the demand is there to offer this service."
Java Studio Creator, formerly known as Project Rave, is Sun's next-generation tool suite for Java application development. Based on the open-source NetBeans toolset -- as most Sun development tools have been based for years -- Creator brings all of Sun's latest development innovations together in one package. Included in the latest release are such features as refactoring, a new user interface, the new J2EE 1.4 specifications, code folding (which allows a window to collapse and hide to allow for easier code writing), and other features.
Details on the new NetBeans 4.0 release were announced Tuesday.
"We've been watching the downloads of the Project Rave tools, and they're averaging about 12,000 copies per day," said Sun tools executive Joe Keller. "That's almost 25 percent higher than (IBM) Eclipse, which is doing about 10,000 per day."