Saying that Corel has an uphill battle catching Microsoft in the office productive suite market is similar to that old snow ball and its chances for survival in Hell.

But, Richard Carriere, director of Office Productivity at Corel Systems in Ottawa views it differently. According to his research, 10 to 20 per cent of Office users are looking for an alternative to Microsoft.

Carriere added that would represent more than 300 million users worldwide. “”The market itself is US$10 billion worldwide in size and represents a third of Microsoft’s revenue in its annual report. Our goal is not to capture half of that market. People would laugh at me, but our goal in a year’s time is that if they are looking for an alternative we are the only game in town.””

His comments came as Corel announced WordPerfect Office Suite v.12 will be released next month.

Warren Shaiu, software analyst at IDC Canada, is skeptical about WordPerfect’s chances at capturing any part of that 300 million-user pie within the next six to 18 months.

“”If you look at all those bundle deals a few month back with HP and Dell. If you scratched below the surface, it was all bare bones machines and did not even add any support. Corel was going to a more price conscious customer for a reason, which is to get them to upgrade to buy a WordPerfect suite. This has not made them a $500 million dollar company again,”” Shaiu said.

He added that for Corel to regain success it should try to focus on the corporate market and develop better OEM deals.

However, Shaiu did say that Corel always would have a chance to win over dissatisfied Office accounts.

WordPerfect has been around for 21 years says Carriere. He calls the package “”the grand old lady of software”” and believes that somehow the market may have forgotten that WordPerfect is still around.

“”The problem we have is that everybody knew about WordPerfect. They had a warm and fuzzy feeling about it and they knew it was the first software that was productive on a PC. But was it still around? Its never been gone, but in the mind set of people it wasn’t around. It reflects our biggest challenge. We have to make the world know we are still around and the only full-featured alternative to Office,”” Carriere said.

One way of getting the suite into the hands of power users is by adding wireless features, he added. The new WordPerfect Wireless Office Suite will be powered by ZIM. ZIM, based in Ottawa, is run by none other than former Corel boss Michael Cowpland.

“”I am afraid there is no big scoop here,”” Carriere said. “”There is no association with Mr. Cowpland and Corel.””

Corel tested ZIM, which enables users to work with spreadsheets wirelessly on a mobile phone. “”We tested ZIM version 11 and we wanted to add the modules. The target for this will be SMB businesses. This is no different than other third party partnerships we have at Corel. It’s obvious that Mr. Cowpland is not a shareholder and is not involved, but is still a great creative mind and his headquarters just happens to be in the same town as ours,”” Carriere said.

WordPerfect Office 12 will be compatible with Microsoft products such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and includes WordPerfect for word processing, Quattro Pro for spreadsheets and Presentations for multimedia slide shows.

The suite also comes with an address book for managing contacts and OfficeReady template browser with 40 new templates.

The new Workspace Manager enables users to adjust the user interface. It also applies Microsoft Office keyboard shortcuts to WordPerfect Office 12. Users can choose between WordPerfect Office or Microsoft Office-style interfaces, a Lotus 1-2-3 mode or the WordPerfect 5.1 classic blue screen mode. Legal users of WordPerfect Office 12 will have access to the legal tools and keyboard shortcuts, all by activating the WordPerfect legal mode from within the WordPerfect 12 Workspace Manager.

WordPerfect Office 12 also allows users to open, edit, print and save Office files without searching through menus or making multiple selections. The package can publish documents to PDF, the Web, XML, Word, Excel or PowerPoint.

There is also Microsoft Outlook integration with version 12.

The package is priced at $399 for the full-featured version. Corel has also made available a family package priced at $90.

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