Corel has reached an agreement with Ontario’s Ministry of Education to put WordPerfect in provincial schools, but rival Sun Microsystems says that doesn’t necessarily mean StarOffice is on the outs. 

Corel first announced its deal with Ontario schools last week, almost exactly one year after Sun made public its agreement to supply StarOffice to the same schools.

Corel is providing the province with licences to WordPerfect Office 12 and CorelDRAW Graphics suite 12. The company has also reached a deal with Prince Edward Island to provide schools there with Paint Shop Pro 9. 

Corel CEO Amish Mehta said that up to two million students in those provinces have access to Corel tools, but in the short term he expects to see several hundred thousand users.

In May 2004, Sun Microsystems reached a similar agreement with Ontario, providing copies of its StarOffice suite (which competes with WordPerfect) to the province’s 72 public and Catholic school boards.

Both Corel and Sun products were provided at a significant discount. StarOffice could be downloaded or copied freely for school or home use for students. Corel took a similar approach, offering a site licence allowing its software to be installed on any school computer as well as laptops and home PC for faculty members.

Due to the distribution methods, Sun Canada’s director of education and research Lynne Zucker said it is difficult to track the actual number of users in Ontario schools. But, she said, “we’ve been feeling quite positive about momentum. As far as we’re concerned, it’s going very, very well.” 

Mehta countered that, saying, “We had heard about the Star Office deal, however we have not seen any uptake of the Star Office product in schools that we know of.”

Software for Ontario schools is selected via a request for proposal process by the Ministry of Education. The software is then evaluated by the Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee whose members include representatives from 10 school boards across the province.

In an e-mail, a representative from the Ministry of Education said that the ministry does not track how its schools are using software or which – if any – software package receives the greatest use. In a separate e-mail, Ross Isenegger, OSAPAC board member and IT and numeracy coordinator for Near North District School Board, said that OSAPAC does not comment to media on software selections.

Zucker was unable to provide the number of users for Sun products in Ontario schools, but said that its not unusual for schools to use multiple products even if they are designed with similar functionality, like Star Office and WordPerfect.

“I’d want (students) to experience multiple products during their school careers,” she said. “Maybe not necessarily in the same year, the same term, the same course, but over the course of their school careers, they should experience lot of different products. That just makes sense.”

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