Services & Software

Fresh rivals take on Microsoft Office Goliath

In an effort to chip away at Redmond's dominance, China's Evermore Software and Oregon's Gobe Software are taking novel approaches with their new workplace-application products.

Two new players have entered the market for productivity software, hoping to grab a sliver of business from Microsoft's dominant Office package.

Beijing-based Evermore Software announced on Tuesday that it has begun selling its EIOffice 2004 package in the United States, Japan and China.

Also targeting the productivity market is Beaverton, Ore.-based Gobe Software, which recently began retail sales of its GoBeProductive software.

Microsoft has long dominated the productivity software market--a category that typically includes a word processor, a spreadsheet and presentation programs--with Office.

But the field has attracted fresh competition lately, with Sun Microsystems and Corel pushing their respective StarOffice and WordPerfect franchises as low-cost alternatives to Microsoft. OpenOffice, an open-source offshoot of StarOffice, is also gaining ground, particularly among government and international buyers.

Evermore is taking a novel approach to the market by basing its product on Sun's Java environment, meaning that the same code runs on both Windows and Linux desktop PCs.

Evermore said in a statement that EIOffice uses a single file format for all types of documents and can read and export documents in Microsoft Office file formats and Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format. The package includes special tools for creating technical and scientific documents, an enhanced file manager and expanded cut-and-paste functions for moving text between documents.

EIOffice is available for download now in English-, Chinese- and Japanese-language editions, priced at $398 per license with five years of free upgrades and unlimited support or $149 for one year of upgrades and support.

Gobe has been in the market for a couple years as a shareware publisher but recently began retail and packaged-good sales of the new version 3 of GoBeProductive.

Unlike productivity "suites" that divide functions between multiple applications, GoBeProductive does everything--spreadsheets, text, graphics--within the same window, the company said. "You don't switch applications, just tool sets," said Bruce Hammond, chief technology officer at Gobe. That makes it easier to produce complex documents that merge multiple data types and to reduce the learning curve in order to pick up new functions, he added.

GoBeProductive also includes several sets of functions not typically found in productivity packages, including graphics design and image editing. Hammond said the goal is to give average PC users the tools they need at a reasonable price.

"We're really targeting small businesses, home offices--that sort of customer," he said. "We're not going after institutional buyers who feel the need for Microsoft."

GoBeProductive sells for $50, with special pricing for academic users. The company only offers a Windows version now but is considering Linux support, Hammond said.