8 September 2002 Corel has signed a contract with the UK government’s procurement agency, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), to supply its WordPerfect office software to government organisations, says Corel CEO Derek Burney.
The deal will enable Corel to sell its software to the 1.4 million users in the British civil service, but only puts it on a par with Sun Microsystems, IBM’s Lotus unit and Microsoft — it will still have to persuade government departments to buy the suite. However, the agreement reflects growing interest in alternatives to Microsoft Office, which is considerably more expensive than the other desktop software suites.
At the end of August, Corel signed a landmark deal with PC manufacturers Dell and Hewlett-Packard (HP) to offer pre-installed versions of WordPerfect Office, including the QuattroPro spreadsheet, in selected models of their consumer PCs in the North American market.
More recently, open source desktop software start-up Lindows.com struck a deal with PC maker Microtel to supply low-cost Lindows-based PCs for resale through retailer Wal-Mart. Lindows is bundled with the WINE Windows emulator to enable users to run Microsoft applications on Linux.
Sun Microsystems StarOffice suite also gained notoriety after Gartner Research analyst Michael Silver claimed that the product could take 10% of the Microsoft Office market by 2004 if Microsoft does not reduce its licence fees. This could be worth just under $1 billion.
The recent gains made by Microsoft’s competitors should not be overstated however. For example, Corel’s Burney expects the deal with HP and Dell to account for 4 million unit sales of Word Perfect this year. This represents only 9% of the combined PC sales for HP (including Compaq) and Dell over 2001, according to Gartner Dataquest.
However, Burney, who is well aware of the negligible affect these deals will have on Microsoft’s desktop stranglehold, says that HP and Dell’s use of WordPerfect is a “test”, and that “the important thing is that people know that there is a choice in the desktop software market.” He also refers to the OGC deal as “yet another fallen domino” in the attempt to provide more choice to desktop software users.