Corel scoops more seats

In the span of two weeks, the usually predictable office software market has been injected with some new life thanks to several interesting deals announced by Ottawa-based Corel Corp.

First came the news last week that Dell would ship WordPerfect in its Dimension 2300 desktops and Inspiron 2600 notebook computers. Then, on Monday, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced that WordPerfect 10 and Quattro 10 will be added to approximately three million of its Pavillion line across North America. In total, the two deals should see around four million new seats of WordPerfect added.

The irony of the situation is that the very same company that pumped some US$135 million into the sinking ship that was Corel – Microsoft Corp. – could be partially responsible for the company’s recent resurgence.

As the nearly uncontested ruler of the office software market, Microsoft has recently alienated some of its customers with its new Licensing 6.0 program, whereby customers are being forced to cough up the money in advance for Microsoft software upgrades.

Last spring, analyst firm The Standish Group conducted six focus groups with 60 CIOs who were said to be “upset about the Microsoft policy concerning their licensing policy,” said Jim Johnson, chairman at The Standish Group in West Yarmouth, Mass. He speculated that Corel has found an opening against Microsoft, and is winning over some disenchanted Microsoft customers based on sheer economics.

“I certainly see it (the licensing policy) as a threat in the enterprise space because people didn’t plan for it in their budgets and the new licensing policy is pretty harsh and it’s upset a lot of budgets. But it’s just hard to change and I think that’s what Microsoft is betting on,” he said.

Yet, credit must also go to Corel itself for its recent turnaround. Last year, Corel bought Micrografx Inc. and SoftQuad Software Ltd., and one analyst said these acquisitions have helped the company in making inroads.

“Corel is making a turnaround and the new solution that they’re coming out with integrates those companies,” said Nancy Tubb, senior business advisor at the Delphi Group in Boston, Mass. Tubb, referring to Corel’s XML enterprise software, characterized the company’s new graphics strategy with XML as “pretty strong.” She added Corel is targeting the enterprise market after realizing where its weaknesses were and is moving forward with a strategy to enter the market.

Corel in Ottawa can be reached at