Corel Pins Hopes on WordPerfect

The plan is to become once again a force in the desktop arena, with the help of increased funding to boost WordPerfect's growth rate and market share and leverage its 17 million users.

Corel Corp.s new owners are turning to that old standby, WordPerfect Office, to lead the company back, but its going to take a lot to convince the industry.

The Ottawa company, which was sold to San Francisco-based Vector Capital last summer, is now being run by Amish Mehta, a Vector Capital principal. The plan is to become once again a force in the desktop arena, with the help of increased funding to boost WordPerfects growth rate and market share and leverage its 17 million users.

But some users have been alienated by the roller-coaster ride in Corels fortunes over the past few years and its lack of focus on WordPerfect, which they saw as one of its mainstay products. Some have turned instead to Sun Microsystems Inc.s StarOffice or OpenOffice.orgs free OpenOffice.org distribution.

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Matthew Rice, a partner at Starnix Inc., of Thornhill, Ontario, said Corel will have to show long-term commitment to its products. "They will have to pick their user niches very carefully," Rice said. "They just cannot compete toe-to-toe with Microsoft [Corp.] at this point."

Corel has learned from past mistakes and will not be pursuing a line of Linux-based products until demand is there, said Mehta. While there is a lot of interest centered on Linux, particularly from governments, he said that "in two to three years out, we anticipate it to be a more meaningful source of revenue [for Corel]. But we are now fighting the Linux culture and the expectation that things should be free, as well as the immaturity of the Linux platform, which will change as more customers demand alternatives to Microsoft products."

Rice disputes that, saying Linux users are buying, and Corel has to be serious about WordPerfect on Linux and offer more than the current "proof of concept" version it is selling. "One of my customers moving from Microsoft Office chose to buy 1,000 copies of StarOffice rather than go to the free OpenOffice.org distribution," Rice said.

Corel has sold off or closed many of its other divisions and products in the past six to nine months to focus its resources on its WordPerfect and CorelDraw Graphics divisions. "We are now a 450-person company focused on these two product lines," Mehta said.

Next page: Corels target WordPerfect market.