On Tuesday, Sun Microsystems will announce a new version of its StarOffice office productivity suite that provides more features and a look and feel that closely resembles market leader Microsoft Office 2003. Sun Star Office 8, which is built from the OpenOffice.org open source project, will also cost significantly less than Microsoft Office, while providing the most-often-used functionality from Microsoft's product.

StarOffice 8 includes word processing, spreadsheet, database, and presentation software, but lacks an equivalent to Microsoft Office, an email and personal information management (PIM) solution. It works seamlessly with virtually all Microsoft Office document formats, and can be easily mixed into organizations that already utilize Microsoft Office. StarOffice 8 is also the first office productivity product to support the OpenDocument format, which is increasingly required by local and federal governments.

StarOffice 8 will retail for $99, but customers can download an electronic version for $69. Sun says that corporate customers can get the suite for $35 per desktop. These prices, of course, are significantly lower than what Microsoft charges for Office 2003. On the other hand, it's uncertain how many enterprises and other customers would be willing to switch from the comfort of Microsoft Office. Too, most of StarOffice's features will be available in OpenOffice.org 2.0, which will be made available for free.