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Corel debuts new WordPerfect

The company will begin selling the new version of its WordPerfect office software Wednesday, but analysts say it's unlikely to make much headway against Microsoft Office.

Corel will begin selling the new version of its WordPerfect office software Wednesday, but analysts don't expect the package to make much headway against Microsoft Office.

As previously reported, WordPerfect Office 11 will include a number of new features based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), allowing documents to share data with back-end systems. The package includes the WordPerfect word processing application, Quattro spreadsheet software and Presentations slide-show software.

The new software includes specialized extensions, such as tools for creating legal documents that used to be sold separately, plus integrated support for publishing documents in Adobe Systems' widespread portable document format (PDF). The package also works with Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client to simplify the electronic exchange of documents for review and comment. It also sports a new navigation interface that makes it easier to find a specific spot in a large document.

Corel is targeting the software at WordPerfect's existing user base of mainly government and legal professionals, said company spokesman Greg Wood. But the software maker also expects to pick up more mainstream consumer and small-business users, thanks to deals with major PC makers to include WordPerfect on new PCs.

The software maker also is pushing to attract more corporate users by trying to tap into dissatisfaction over changes in Microsoft's licensing procedures. WordPerfect uses a simplified licensing scheme that allows a single user to install the software on multiple machines such as a laptop and desktop PC.

"It'll be interesting to see how (WordPerfect) 11 is received in the enterprise environment," Wood said. "This will be the first time we're coming out with a new product with a licensing strategy that's really flexible and provides a clear alternative to Microsoft."

Jonathan Eunice, an analyst for research firm Illuminata, doesn't expect Corel to make much headway. He said companies frustrated with Microsoft licensing are mostly opting to stick with older versions of Office, and those looking at alternatives are focusing on wholly different approaches, most notably the free, open-source OpenOffice package.

"You've got Microsoft on one end and free software on the other end and not much opportunity in the middle," Eunice said. "There are no large-scale customers switching from (Microsoft software) to WordPerfect."

Corel's recent corporate instability doesn't help, Eunice added. "The health and well-being of everyone in the market except Microsoft is very suspect," he said.

The standard version of WordPerfect will sell for $299, or $149 for those upgrading from a previous version. A Professional version, which adds the Paradox database application, will be sold on a license version to businesses or as a $100 boxed package for educators and students. A free 30-day trial version of WordPerfect is available for download from Corel.

WordPerfect 11 will work only with Windows PCs, but Wood said Corel will evaluate other operating systems for future versions. "The Linux market is starting to look a lot more promising," he said.