Corel’s hope for WordPerfect springs eternal

Saying that Corel has an uphill battle catching Microsoft in the office suite market is like discussing 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. He believes 10 to 20 per cent of MS Office users are looking for an alternative to Microsoft.

Carriere said that 10 to 20 per cent of the market 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,”” he said. “”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.””

Other firms are in fact attempting to beat WordPerfect to the punch. Research firm Gartner has estimated Sun Microsystem’s StarOffice and could wrest 10 per cent of Word’s market share.

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

“”Look at all those bundling deals a few months back with HP and Dell,”” he said. “”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.””

Shiau 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, Carriere pointed out. He called 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? It reflects our biggest challenge.””

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, an Ottawa-based firm run by former Corel boss Michael Cowpland.

Corel tested ZIM, which enables users to work with spreadsheets wirelessly on their mobile phone. “”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 slide shows.

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

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