Services & Software

Corel sets WordPerfect update

The company is marketing the software package as a low-cost alternative to Microsoft Office for consumers and small businesses.

Software maker Corel announced a new version Monday of its WordPerfect office software, marketing the package as a low-cost alternative to Microsoft Office for consumers and small businesses.

WordPerfect Office 12, set to go on sale in late April, includes new versions of the WordPerfect word processing application, Quattro Pro spreadsheet program and Presentations slide show software.

Enhancements in the new product include a number of features aimed at improving compatibility with Microsoft Office, by far the dominant productivity package. A new Microsoft Office compatibility mode ensures that documents are automatically saved in Office formats and gives WordPerfect a look and feel similar to Office, said Richard Carriere, director of office productivity for Corel. "For the user, it's quasi-transparent whether they're using Microsoft Office or our product," he said.

"There is at least 10 to 20 percent of the market interested in some alternatives" to Microsoft Office, Carriere said. "The most important thing to them is to be able to communicate in a world where the standard is Microsoft formats."

The new WordPerfect will be marketed primarily at consumers and small businesses, which are price-sensitive and have more leeway to switch products, Carriere said.

"We recognize that for office suites, it's harder for a large switch away from Microsoft products," he said. "We have to recognize in all humility we're only a fraction of the size of the dominant player in the market."

Corel gained some ground on Microsoft two years ago, when a number of major PC makers began pre-loading WordPerfect on their low-end consumer models. Several manufacturers have since backtracked to Microsoft products, but PC leader Dell continues to use WordPerfect. Carriere said support from PC makers has been helpful in building brand recognition for WordPerfect, but few customers have paid to upgrade from the limited version of WordPerfect included with the PC to the full version of the software package.

"We're not in the double digits yet for upselling people to the full suite, but we are making progress," he said.

WordPerfect is one of two main product lines Corel executives have focused on since the company went private in a $98 million buyout last year. WordPerfect was once the dominant office application, but the product faded in the 1990s with the dominance of Microsoft's software. WordPerfect has faced new competition in recent years from Sun Microsystems' StarOffice and its free open-source sibling OpenOffice, which have benefited from efforts to include the applications as part of a broad strategy to replace Microsoft on the desktop.

WordPerfect Office 12 will be available in English, French, German, Spanish and Brazilian-Portuguese. The full version will sell for $300, and upgrades from a previous version of WordPerfect or a competing product will cost $150.

That compares with the "standard" edition of Microsoft's Office 2003, which sells for $400, or $240 for those upgrading from a previous version.