Less than 12 hours before thousands of Canadian enterprises would be affected by Microsoft’s revamped licensing program, Corel offered Microsoft customers a special way of purchasing WordPerfect.

As a kick-start to its own licensing program, Corel

Corp. on Wednesday said it would allow customers with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement to deploy WordPerfect 10 across their organizations. Corel executives said the timing of the promotion was intended to coincide with the deadline for customers to choose an option under Microsoft’s Licensing 6 program, which takes effect Thursday.

Microsoft has gained considerable controversy with changes to its licensing, which includes a plan called Software Assurance. This plan — which does not affect Microsoft Enterprise Agreements but the Open and Select options — would require customers to upgrade on a more frequent two-year cycle to earn major discounts on Microsoft products. Research firm Gartner Inc. has estimated that choosing the Software Assurance options could raise volume licensing fees overall by 107 per cent in some cases.

Corel’s vice-president of Enterprise Solutions David Roberts, who worked at Microsoft for 12 years before joining the company, said Corel saw the Software Assurance furor as a unique marketing opportunity.

“”We would be delinquent if we didn’t look at the brand equity in WordPerfect and the somewhat disgruntled customer set that has arisen over this licensing change and make a promotional offer available to these customers,”” he said. “”Many of them are looking for another choice — or to have a choice.””

Paul de Groot, an analyst with a consulting firm called Directions On Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash., said the transition to Licensing 6 could open some doors for other software companies.

“”I don’t think there’s any question that the pricing structure of Microsoft’s new licensing agreements is going to make alternatives look better, including Corel’s WordPerfect,”” he said. “”The problem with these kinds of licensing programs is that they work best with products that are really ubiquitous. The Enterprise Agreement is really a desktop program. Most companies that buy that also have a Select option because it’s a better way to buy server products.””

Roberts said Corel isn’t expecting to topple Microsoft’s desktop dominance with a timely launch of its own program.

“”We think that it’s going to be extremely difficult to gain market share points within this customer set,”” he said. “”We’re under no illusions we’re going to be head-to-head with Microsoft. It’s not in any way a change to co-exist and partner with Microsoft.””

Corel’s licensing program includes a Corel Transactional License (CTL) option whereby customers buy products one at a time without volume commitments and a Corel Contractual License (CCL) option that tailors the licence with support and services.

Joe Bevk, Corel’s director of sales operations, said customers either of the two options can also buy a maintenance contract for upgrades, Premium Services and entitlements like multilingual support.

“”We’ve been very careful in putting together this program to first of all look at customer needs and actually speaking to customers and the channel,”” he said, “”When we roll something out, we roll something out that customers know will be there for a while.””

De Groot said Corel may be wise to seize the moment. “”Corel has basically one of the few products that it makes sense to license this way. I can’t imagine, for example, Adobe licensing PhotoShop this way,”” he said.

Customers who are interested in the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement promotion should contact 1-877-OK-COREL and reference the “”EA Promotion.”” Corel said the offer will run until the end of October.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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