Very odd... A few things:
If the laptop isn't booting from CDROM correctly, you could:
A) check the BIOS to make sure that it will boot from the CDrom before the HD.
B) If you have a floppy drive, make a couple of SuSe boot floppies (The images and instructions should be on CD 1 somewhere) and try that flavor of install, which has worked for me with every other distro. I've only installed SuSe on a Sparc.
C) Boot floppies again, but this time with a net install, but this is a headache unless you have broadband and a lot of time.
Just download StarOffice after the fact off of the sun.com website (its big, 100+ Mb), and then any SuSe specific utilities you need you can install via RPM one at a time off of either the CDs or download them.
Hope that helps,