Alternatives to Microsoft Corp.s desktop productivity software suites are gaining ground as PC makers look to cut costs.
Hewlett-Packard Co., the worlds largest PC manufacturer, and Dell Computer Corp., the second-largest, have each expanded their relationships with Canadian software developer Corel Corp. in recent weeks to offer that companys word processing package, WordPerfect 10, and spreadsheet application, Quattro Pro 10, with some of their computer lines starting this month.
Earlier this year, Sony Corp. agreed to ship WordPerfect on a range of its PCs, from budget to high-end machines.
Steve Houk, executive vice president of strategic relations for Corel, in Ottawa, said the Sony, HP and Dell deals could add about 5 million WordPerfect units to its sales, almost a 25 percent increase to its worldwide user base of 22 million.
Houk said the cost differential between suites, as well as Microsofts Office licensing terms, is helping fuel the trend to switch. The retail version of WordPerfect is some $40 cheaper than Microsoft Works and $100 less than Office XP, he said.
"The pricing and licensing problems we have had with Microsoft around Office are the primary reason why I want to move the entire company onto StarOffice," said Eric LeSatz, vice president of IS administration for A.B. Watley Inc., a New York stock brokerage.
HP officials said cost influenced the companys decision to replace Microsoft Works—a stripped-down version of Microsofts Office productivity suite for consumers—with WordPerfect as the standard for its Pavilion desktop line in North America.
"The Corel solution provides a very economical alternative that meets customer demands for word processing and spreadsheet applications and allows us to more competitively price this PC," said David Albritton, an HP spokesman, in Houston.
Users said they are becoming more sophisticated and looking for options. "A lot of applications are superior to Microsoft products," said Ruthann Stolzman, who runs a desktop publishing business in Saratoga, Calif. "Alternatives and personal choices are the American way."
Sun Microsystems Inc. has also taken aim at Microsofts enterprise installed base, exploiting the frustration many users feel over the Redmond, Wash., companys pricing and licensing conditions.
"We have 50 large- enterprise customers who are currently evaluating StarOffice for possible implementation," said Nancy Lee, a group product manager for Suns Office productivity line, in Santa Clara, Calif.
Lee said that some 100,000 StarOffice 6.0 licenses have been sold globally through retail channels since its May release. Sun also recently signed with Hyundai Multi-CAV Europe Ltd., a United Kingdom division of Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co., to bundle StarOffice in select global locations.
Arlene Huff, senior product manager for Works, said Microsoft is not concerned by these moves. "We have a loyal following of some 12 million Works users in the U.S. alone. In addition, all the other leading OEM vendors are still pre-installing Microsoft software, including Works," Huff said.
Microsoft this week will launch its next version of Works, Works Suite 2003. It is also working on the next version of Office, code-named Office 11, the first beta of which is expected later this year.
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