Corel WordPerfect Office 12: The Other Office Suite

While might get all the attention in the battle to unseat Microsoft Office, Corel's suite is the real number two in the market.

In eWeeks recent , there was no mention of the real number two in the market: Corel WordPerfect Office. Given that Corel just launched WordPerfect Office Version 12 (and it is an impressive product), its worth addressing here.

Here are a few reasons why WordPerfect Office matters:

  • WordPerfect Office comes bundled with more PC hardware than OpenOffice or Star Office do.
    Thats because the hardware vendors dont compete with Corel. They do compete with Sun, and have a real problem sending Sun a check for anything.
  • Its been around longer. WordPerfect was dominant before Microsoft Word was, and its still very popular in legal and government offices. It doesnt have to prove itself—its already been proven.
  • It comes from a focused company. What business is Sun really in? Your first answer probably wouldnt be "the desktop applications business." Much like weapons created to fight the cold war, Open Office and Star Office were created to fight Microsoft.

But Sun just kissed and made up with Microsoft; the company just took a chunk of change from Redmond, and has agreed to work more closely with them on interoperability issues going forward. Sun is now focusing on HP and IBM as its competition, and an office suite isnt very strategic in that fight.

But the desktop applications business is where where Corel lives and breathes; its their core market, and they have remained committed to it for nearly two decades in one form or other. This product category remained strategic to Corel even when the company was making nice with Microsoft some time ago.


David Coursey discusses in his Weblog where WordPerfect Office and StarOffice fall short: matching the functionality of Outlook.

  • Corel is more committed to Linux going forward. Corel has a Linux version of their product, and they charge for theirs, which makes it, potentially, a longer term strategic offering. On the other hand, both Sun and Microsoft appear to be set to battle Linux in a more focused way going forward, and it is hard to believe that OpenOffice in particular, which strengthens Linux, is strategic to Sun from here on out.
  • Corel is profitable. Sun isnt right now. How much do you think Sun makes on a free product? OpenOffice has no revenue associated with it; Star Office does, but it isnt the more popular of the two. And supporting a free product when you are losing money would seem to be on the short list of decisions to revisit.

Corel, on the other hand, is profitable, and is no longer public—so the company doesnt have to worry about the financial oversight that Sun is currently concerned with.

  • WordPerfect is more compatible. Corel has been making plug-compatible products to Microsoft Office for over a decade. They are, in some ways, more compatible with old versions of Office than Microsoft itself is.
  • WordPerfects presentation component is stronger. While presentations are the weakest part of Star Office and OpenOffice, Corels Presentations has been compared favorably to PowerPoint—and is vastly more mature than what Sun provides.
  • Corel is a more stable company. Corel is also not going through any leadership changes currently, making what they say now potentially more consistent with what they will be saying 6 or 12 months from now.

Microsoft owns 92 to 94 percent of this market, depending on who you ask. Neither Corels nor Suns products are much of a threat to Microsoft Office yet. Granted, Corels offering is not open source—but who really wants to review source code for a desktop productivity application that has millions of lines of code, anyway?

In the end the fight really isnt about number one yet—though that could be coming. Rather, it is about who is number two. And here Corel may actually have the inside track.

Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology.