Gateway opts for WordPerfect on some consumer PCs

For the fourth time this year, Corel, the maker of WordPerfect word processing software, has signed up a major desktop computer maker to include its software on some consumer PCs instead of similar products from market leader Microsoft.

          For the fourth time this year, Corel, the maker of WordPerfect word processing software, has signed up a major desktop computer maker to include its software on some consumer PCs instead of similar products from market leader Microsoft.

          In an announcement yesterday, Ottawa-based Corel said Gateway will load Corel's WordPerfect Productivity Pack on Gateway's 300S series of consumer desktop PCs sold in North America, starting this week.

          In August, Corel announced a similar deal with Hewlett-Packard; Dell Computer and Sony also signed up in recent months to offer the WordPerfect products on some of their consumer machines.

          The software includes word processing program WordPerfect 10 and spreadsheet program Quattro Pro 10.

          Steve Houck, executive vice-president of strategic relations at Corel, says that in the past, the software company has had trouble getting just one hardware maker to switch from offering Microsoft Office products on machines for consumers. Now, Corel has gotten four PC makers to make the change.

          One reason for the switch: lower prices for the manufacturers and value for customers.

          "It's definitely not going to change the balance of things today [in the software marketplace], but it does send a signal that there is room for a number two in this space," he says.

          The deals with HP, Dell, Sony and now Gateway mean that Corel will have an extra 6 million new licences for WordPerfect during the next year, up from 250,000 to 300,000 copies of WordPerfect typically sold at retail annually, he says. "This is a huge increase in one year," Houck says.

          Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata in Nashua, New Hampshire, says the deals are impressive because they're evidence of cracks in the wall of Microsoft's dominance in the marketplace.

          "I think that HP, Dell and Gateway going with a non-Microsoft package is fairly important," he says.

          For many users of the software, he says, "it's not that big a deal" what brand the software is, as long as it does the work they need to do.

          The move toward Microsoft alternatives, especially in the consumer PC market, is fuelled by price, he says. And today, price is winning out among buyers even as they look at their historical preferences for Microsoft Office products, he says.

          Heath Johnson, director of product planning at San Diego-based Gateway, says in a statement that the company is "always looking for ways to deliver increased value to our customers."

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