Start-up ZoooS is set to launch a open-source web office suite that will allow Google Docs-like collaboration, but based on OpenOffice.

At the Office 2.0 conference ZoooS will preview the suite and claims that despite OpenOffice's size - version 2 for Windows requires 440MB of disk space when installed - ZoooS offers speedy access to 95 percent of the features and look-and-feel of OpenOffice.org, according to ZoooS' CEO and co-founder, Hisham El-Emam.

"It's almost all Javascript, so it runs really fast, you don't even need Google Chrome," El-Emam said. ZoooS already has a "few thousand" paying users at several medium-sized companies and its major client, the German Ministry of Education, making the 20-employee startup already profitable, El-Emam said. The basic cost is $999 (£562) for a perpetual server licence for 10 users, which includes installation support and a few basic support incidents after that. The price per user decreases as the number of users increases, he said.

This isn't El-Eman's first attempt at a web office suite. The German-trained lawyer co-founded Ajax13, an early online office vendor.

Trying to match Microsoft Office breadth-wise, however, hurt Ajax13's depth, said a Computerworld review last year.

El-Eman split with Ajax13's co-founder, MP3.com founder Michael Robertson, last year, though Robertson retains a small stake in ZoooS.

El-Eman's new approach delivers OpenOffice.org's deep feature set, multi-lingual capabilities (36 languages), and user interface, which is close but not identical to Microsoft Office.

ZoooS's framework translates the OpenOffice.org code, making it browser-friendly. By the end of this year, the company hopes to have plug-ins and widgets for Firefox, Opera and several other browsers for both on- and offline access. An Internet Explorer version is targeted for the first half of 2009.

El-Eman said a main goal with ZoooS was to target existing users of Microsoft Office. ZoooS can be more attractive on price against Microsoft, he said, and, at the same time, will be appealing to users who are resistant to switch to something free (such as Google Docs) or very low-cost (such as Zoho) because they may be lacking in features.