HP joins Dell in offering alternatives to Microsoft

Hewlett-Packard has signed a deal to provide Corel WordPerfect 10 word processing software and Quattro Pro 10 spreadsheet program...

Hewlett-Packard has signed a deal to provide Corel WordPerfect 10 word processing software and Quattro Pro 10 spreadsheet program on all new HP Pavilion desktop computers sold in North America from next month.

The deal follows a similar agreement made with Dell to provide the WordPerfect productivity pack on selected Dell Dimension and Inspiron computers.

Steve Houck, executive vice-president of strategic relations for Corel, said that the deals with HP and Dell would see Corel products replace the Microsoft Works software that had been offered on the machines in the past.

He estimated that some three million HP Pavilion machines and about one million Dell machines would ship in the next year with WordPerfect software.

"The onus is on Corel" to make sure that users of the software are satisfied with the products and find it easily compatible with Microsoft Office file formats, Houck said.

Users will be offered inexpensive upgrade paths to get the full WordPerfect 10 office suite and Corel hopes for a 12% uptake of the upgrade option.

Analysts said the deals are good for Corel but won't make much of a dent in the office suite wars.

"What can be a good business for Corel . . . doesn't necessarily change the enterprise dynamics," said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata. "They figure they lost the big war years ago, so now what can they do with this asset?"

For the likes of HP and Dell, the deal will mean lower costs. "Down at that level of platform, price is all," Eunice said.

David Smith, an analyst at Gartner, said Corel could benefit from Microsoft's recent licensing and pricing changes that angered many users.

"It makes sense to seed the market with some low-cost or free software and then get them to upgrade. It's not something that's going to revolutionise the world or keep Microsoft up at night, but they could make some money," said Smith.

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