The return of WordPerfect?

Back in my student days I used MS-DOS 5.0 and WordPerfect 5.1. It worked really well. Then I moved to Windows 3.1 and Word for Windows 2.0 (Windows versions of WordPerfect just never made the grade). Obviously I was not alone because over the intervening 12 or so years WordPerfect’s fortunes have not been good until recently when the product’s current owners, Corel, persuaded OEMs to ship WordPerfect products as low-cost alternative to Microsoft Works and Office on new PCs.

Now the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is reported to have adopted WordPerfect Office 12 for its 50,000 users. The WinInfo Update reports that Corel has 20 million user worldwide, marketing WordPerfect for “its unique functionality, broad capabilities, and low price”.

According to Corel, “WordPerfect Office 12 is a full-featured office productivity suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and address book applications”. Because it is compatible with popular file formats, including Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF, WordPerfect Office 12 users can interoperate with users of other applications and, unlike open-source office productivity alternatives such as OpenOffice.org, Corel provides support for WordPerfect.

But the killer (from a licensing perspective) is that Corel gives WordPerfect corporate licensees home and laptop privileges so they can install the same copy of the product at home and on a laptop in addition to a desktop computer.

Microsoft Office is still a highly profitable product for Microsoft and looks unlikely to be usurped from its top spot but with new releases of Windows running late giving Linux the opportunity to build its market share, Firefox rising in popularity (IE’s share now reported to be down to 87%), and new threats in the office productivity space, Microsoft needs to work hard to remain competitive and protect its margins. Competition is back, which is no bad thing, but there could be interesting times ahead.

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