Behind the Week’s headlines: Corel goes after disgruntled Microsoft customers

Is Corel biting the hand that feeds with its attempts to win over current Microsoft Office users with its nifty bit of eleventh-hour licensing shenanigans? These days, and most days, an investment of US$135 million – which is what Microsoft put into Corel in October 2000 – isn’t chump change. Corel

calls it “”co-opetition””, which sounds even more 80s than “”Data General”” (and I have good reason for citing good ‘ole DG in this context and there’s a little more on that further down). Who knows how Microsoft would describe Corel’s maneuver. I expect in the Microsoft war room it’s being regarded as little more than a minor incursion.

For those of you who literally had your heads in the sand lately – it is the middle of the summer after all – Corel introduced a licensing program aimed at wooing disgruntled Microsoft Office customers by offering two licensing options and a year-long free trial of its word-processing software, WordPerfect 10. Under one Corel licensing option, the Transactional License, products and services are available to users no matter how small they are.

Microsoft’s new licensing program requires that small businesses buy a minimum of five licenses. The new Microsoft license kicked in on Aug. 1. Corel made its licensing options known July 31 and Corel founder and ousted CEO (not to mention major Microsoft hater) Michael Cowpland couldn’t have done it better himself.

We’ll have to see how much new business this actually wins for Corel, and if you’re one of those who takes them up on the offer please let me know at the e-mail address below. But it’s bound to help WordPerfect’s popularity somewhat and it comes hard on the heels of an agreement with Dell Computer Corp. to bundle WordPerfect 10 and Quattro Pro 10 into Dell’s low-end PCs.

All in all it has been a pretty good July for Corel.

The history of WordPerfect is a fascinating one, and not just the post 1994 tale of going from independent corporation to Novell ownership then bounced to Corel. It’s one of those “”almost didn’t happen”” and “”amazing that it did”” stories that is told from the eyewitness view of the owner of a struggling family drapery business in Orem, Utah who would become the globetrotting sales and marketing vice-president for WordPerfect. It also includes a WordPerfect founder who never would have been had he not been released from his beloved position as marching band director at Brigham Young University.

The story is called Almost Perfect written by W. E. (Pete) Peterson and published in 1994. It sold about 10,000 copies and is now out of print, but available for reading at http://fitnesoft.com via the link at the bottom of that home page. (Fitnesoft is a software-based personal health management product and Peterson’s current endeavour).

Here are a few excerpts from Almost Perfect:

“”While driving back to the drapery shop one afternoon in the summer of 1980, I had a strong feeling that one-day I would be rich. I laughed to myself at this premonition. I did not care about being rich, I just wanted to pay the bills.

“”If Alan had found work in the summer of 1977 or if Bruce had kept his job as band leader or if Don had decided not to start a business or if Orem City had purchased an IBM computer instead of a Data General computer or if there had not been a recession in 1980, then I would probably still be driving up and down State Street every weekday with drapery samples in my trunk.”” (Note: the mention of Data General, the first big name computer for which OEMs were adapting the earliest versions of WordPerfect, which was then called SSI*WP).

“”Novell bought a sinking ship and never had a realistic chance of fixing things. Novell was also floundering. It couldn’t right its own ship, let alone try to right another. Novell sold off most of the WordPerfect products to Corel for a very low price.””

James Buchok is a former editor of Computer Dealer News, jbuchok@mts.net.

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