DEMO : Chinese company to challenge Microsoft’s Office

Little-known Chinese software maker Evermore Software Ltd. next month plans to step up its challenge to Microsoft Corp.’s Office dominance with the release of its Evermore Integrated Office 2004.

The Wuxi City, China, company plans to launch the product at the Demo conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, next month. Evermore is the first Chinese software company to participate in Demo, an annual showcase of tech innovation organized by IDG Executive Forums.

Evermore Integrated Office (EIOffice) combines the components of traditional productivity suites into one application. Users launch EIOffice, not a word processor, then a spreadsheet application, then a presentation tool. Documents are stored in a single file format and the application, written in Java, runs on any operating systems that supports Java, including Windows and Linux, according to Evermore.

Privately held Evermore first demonstrated an English-language version of EIOffice in 2001 at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany. The company has been selling a version online at a subscription price of US$99 a year. Now it plans to increase its sales efforts through marketing and distribution agreements, an Evermore spokesman said Monday.

By participating in Demo, Evermore hopes to get exposure in the U.S. and gain contacts with corporate software buyers, venture capitalists, potential marketing partners and distributors, the spokesman said. Although the product is attractive, it is too pricey and Evermore lacks marketing muscle to make it stand out in the crowd of Office rivals including Sun Microsystems Inc.’s StarOffice, Corel Corp.’s WordPerfect Office and the free, open-source OpenOffice, said Amy Wohl, president of analyst firm Wohl Associates in Narberth, Pennsylvania.

“The familiarity of the EIOffice interface is amazing. Your first impression is that you’re looking at a copy of Microsoft Word, but when you look closely, you will also see functionality for Excel and PowerPoint,” Wohl said.

That is better than StarOffice and OpenOffice, which don’t look like Microsoft’s products as much, according to Wohl. EIOffice does offer interoperability with Microsoft Office by supporting the document formats, but not macros or other programs written for the Microsoft suite, just like StarOffice and OpenOffice, she said.

Still, for EIOffice to have a chance at success, Evermore needs to partner and drop its price, Wohl said. “Just putting the product on the Web isn’t a good way to get marketing done. They will need to find some partners. If they actually want to sell it to end users or companies, they will have to figure out a new price for it,” Wohl said.

Demo starts Feb. 15 and runs until Feb. 17.

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