Between Microsoft Corp’s dominant Office market share and the attention paid to open source and web-based alternatives, you could forgive Corel Corp for giving up on the productivity software market.
The company has recently returned to the public eye after a spell under the ownership under Vector Capital LLC, and has refocused its attention on the office applications space, according to Richard Carriere, general manager of office productivity, however.
The productivity space today is the fastest moving market, said Carriere. It’s an $11bn software market, and it’s highly profitable. That would explain why the Ottawa, Canada-based company faces growing competition.
Apart from Microsoft, there is also threat posed by Sun Microsystems Inc’s StarOffice and the open source OpenOffice.org, not to mention the potential for Google Inc to launch an online word processing service following its acquisition of Upstartle LLC.
Significant interest follows every move Google makes, as well as any suggestion that an enterprise might be testing an open source alternative to Microsoft, which means a lot of noise for Corel’s competition, but Carriere insists that the company has and will maintain its focus.
That has been the biggest challenge, but we have not surrendered to making silly announcements and silly decision, he maintained. A few years ago we were hearing ‘we want choice, and choice has to be something radically different’, he added.
While Sun began offering StarOffice on Linux, Corel instead focused on building the OEM channel for its WordPerfect software, signing Dell Inc up as a reseller in North America. That is how in North America our market share, which was down to single digits, lets say, in 2003, according to research WordPerfect is now used in 15% of North American households.
As well as focusing on consumer adoption via Dell in North America, and the likes of Markement in Germany (which saw WordPerfect replace StarOffice as part of Markement’s PCSuite 2006), Corel is also focusing on the enterprise space.
Organizations that have stayed with WordPerfect had a good reason to stay with WordPerfect, and it’s not just because of re-training but also because of their workflow. We have to understand how we are relevant to their workflow today.
That attitude has enabled the company to sign significant deals, such as the 50,000-seat deployment of WordPerfect it agreed with the US Department of Justice in March 2005, and the company is not about to get distracted by the next big thing, according to Carriere.
Now there’s Web 2.0 applications – okay, interesting, but we think they’re much more an extension of a professional productivity suite, not a replacement for it, he said. We’ve done a few steps in that direction with [WordPerfect] X3.
With X3, which was released in January and exhibited the fruits of a partnership with Yahoo! including WordPerfect Mail, the Corel-Yahoo toolbar, and the ability to store documents on Yahoo’s Briefcase from the desktop.
This is integration with the web, said Carriere. Would it be conceivable to go further, it’s quite possible, he added. The future could also see integration with the WinZip file compression software that Corel acquired from its parent Vector as it went public.
WinZip is becoming more important for archiving, said Carriere, but it’s too early to say where we’re going in terms of integrating technologies. He did state, however, that the company would be looking to add more acquisitions as it looks to add more services to the WordPerfect product.
One thing the company will avoid doing is distracting itself by looking beyond its core offerings, he maintained, however. And do not expect it to go stretching itself to compete with Microsoft’s marketing dollars or the hype surrounding open source or Web 2.0. Success for me is not owning 25% of the market, it’s an $11bn market. I’d be very happy with a small slice of it, Carriere said.