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June 2, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:26pm

GERMANY’S STAR DIVISION IS READY TO TAKE ON MICROSOFT

By CBR Staff Writer

When Marco Boerries set up German personal computer software suite company Star Division Gmbh, he was just 16 years old. Since that time, he has shown no let-up in ambition, and is now putting into action plans to take his company worldwide. If Star Division’s progress in the German marketplace is anything to go by, expansion may not be beyond 28 year-old Boerries’ reach. His company commands an astonishing 25% of the German software suite market and is going head-to-head with Microsoft, the world’s biggest software company. Significantly, while Microsoft holds market shares of 79% in Italy and 88% in France, its share of the German market amounts to just 64%. Analysts believe this is due in part to Star Division’s successful targeting of small to middle-sized, family-run companies. In addition to battling with giants, Star Division has also been courted by one, although the dalliance ended in disappointment. In early 1996, IBM’s acquisition of Lotus Development put an end to its plans to incorporate Star Division’s object-oriented technology into its word processing product. Still, IBM’s interest gave Star Division a valuable stamp of credibility. There seems to be little argument over the quality of Star Division’s product, Star Office. The software suite’s advanced internet/intranet capabilities, demonstrated at CeBit 1996, have drawn much praise from the industry. These Internet features allow users to move information from the web to texts and spreadsheets, and write electronic mail containing links to internet pages.

Half Microsoft’s price

Star Division boasts that some of the features seen in Microsoft’s recently released Office 97 suite had been available in Star Office for some considerable time. Star Division has already put in extensive work on the internationalization of its product. Since August 1996, StarOffice has been available in German, English, French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish. Star Division also benefits from competitive pricing. At DM498 ($337), StarOffice 3.1 costs less than half the price of Microsoft’s Office 97 suite. Furthermore, it is considerably more compact, requiring only 8MB main memory. Another key advantage is its multi-platform availability. StarOffice runs under Windows 3.1, Windows 95, NT, OS/2 Warp, Power Mac and a variety of Unix environments, including Solaris and AIX. However, analysts question whether such features are sufficient to guarantee Star Division success in the competitive US market, where product features are invariably overshadowed by high-profile marketing. Not only does Microsoft dominate the US market, but WordPerfect from Corel comes in at second with a solid 20% market share. The market, many analysts say, is already full. As a result, it is widely believed that newcomers to the field will find themselves obliged to settle for niche status. Undeterred, Star Division’s plans for global expansion continue apace with a possible offer of shares to the public, managed by Hambrecht & Quist, scheduled for late 1997, and the planned establishment of offices in Milan, London and Palo Alto.

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