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Apple users not sold on .Mac, but free office suite is on the cards

Paid for service vies with .Net in popularity stakes, while StarOffice converts to OS X

Mac users are no keener on paying for online services than their Windows-based counterparts, according to a poll by PC Advisor's sister title Macworld.

Only 28 percent of respondents approved of the move to charge $99 for .Mac, the rechristened, previously free, iTools service.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs did his best to sell the service, highlighting its new features including Backup and Virex antivirus software, improved versions of existing iTools services and additional email and iDisk storage space. But the extra cost just won't wash with users — 53 percent of respondents flatly disagreed with the decision to charge for .Mac.

Perhaps the harshest verdict came from one Macworld reader, who likened Apple to a drug dealer: "Drug dealers give out free drugs then charge once you need it. Sounds very like .Mac email addresses to me."

But while Apple users might be asked to dig deeper for their online services, the company appears to be working with Sun to offer them a free office suite in the shape of StarOffice for OS X.

The StarOffice code has been released to the open source developer group, OpenOffice.org, which has already released an early beta of the OS X version of the software.

The Sun/Apple partnership will reportedly produce a Java-based version of OpenOffice by the end of the year. Cnet reports that Sun's software could be free and quotes Sun's senior desktop marketing solutions director, Tony Siress, as saying: "I don't want to sell StarOffice for OS X. I want Apple to bundle it."

This could be a timely move as Microsoft has been apathetic in marketing its own office suite on the Mac platform, while Kevin Browne, head of the Microsoft Mac Business Unit, has been reported as stating it might pull out of the Mac market unless sales pick up.

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