Corel Gets Aggressive

Next month, the company will begin offering a three-pack bundle of Quattro Pro and WordPerfect to Intel's 45,000 system builders for about $60, said Brett Denly, executive vice president of worldwide marketing at Corel, Ottawa.

Corel also plans a series of Webinars and a marketing campaign in conjunction with Intel pushing a "three-fer" WordPerfect Productivity 3 Pack targeted at manufacturers of custom laptops and desktops. End users wanting to add Corel Presentations to the mix can do so for an additional $50, Denly said.

"It's cheaper than [Microsoft] Works and certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than Office," he said.

System builders say Microsoft Office Standard Edition"with Word, Excel and PowerPoint"costs them somewhere from $140 to $160 a whack. Corel is making available the two most popular desktop applications"word processor and spreadsheet"to system builders at an extremely aggressive price. The offer intrigued some builders who've complained long and loud that Microsoft offers preferential Office pricing to big PC makers, especially Dell, making it hard for them to compete.

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John Boghosian, president of JWB and Associates, Atlanta, said while Office is the brand of choice for many, Corel has made a name for itself, particularly with Corel Draw. "I need to see the product before I can sell and recommend it. The pricing is great," he said.

If system builders can promise customers good file compatibility with Word and Excel, the sale could be easier. Denly promises "very good compatibility, nearly 95 percent," and said Corel users can save documents and spreadsheets in .doc or .xl file formats.

Even given the huge price differential, Corel has its work cut out for it. "People ask for Word and Office by name. We've stocked other stuff, and it just sits there," said David Bolling, president of Northern Computer Technologies, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder.

Microsoft Office's marketshare dominance is so great, long ago passing the 90 percent mark, that most analysts have stopped computing those figures. But the vendor recognizes its lock on system builders isn't certain, and last week it blinked, saying it would offer user rebates of up to $40 on certain preloaded Office 2003 editions starting Sept. 1, a move system builders said would help them better compete.

Moreover, while Microsoft publicly proclaims great success with the run rate of Office 2003, available since October, sources say there is private concern about actual deployment figures. In short, many companies that have licensed the latest release have not deployed it broadly. Microsoft insiders also worry about the high number of Office users still on Office 2000. They maintain that interlopers StarOffice from Sun Microsystems and the open-source OpenOffice are on feature-parity with that offering and are watching developments there carefully.

"When StarOffice catches up to Office XP, they might start seeing defections," said one Microsoft source. A Sun spokeswoman said there have been 40 million downloads of StarOffice and OpenOffice to date.