Interview: Corel on Sun, Open Standards

INTERVIEW Corel's Richard Carriere recently sat down with BetaNews to discuss the hype around alternative office suites and the future of WordPerfect. Carriere says the market is ready for an MS Office alternative, that Microsoft doesn't innovate, and OpenOffice.org and the OpenDocument format aren't yet viable.

BetaNews: With the recent news surrounding the release of StarOffice 8 and Massachusetts supporting OpenOffice.org, it seems like the market is ready for alternatives to Microsoft. What do you make of this news, and why is Corel speaking up?

Greg Wood, communications manager for Corel: The rationale here is we're the clear number two in the marketplace. We have a pretty good perspective on industry trends and there have been a lot of people asking questions about what this news means. And we've actually seen some benefit out of it just because of the number of people talking about office suites this week.

Richard Carriere, general manager of Office Productivity for Corel: Greg touched on a very good point. The market has never been so eager to consider alternatives based on this week's reaction, and this is good news. Look at the Sun-Google announcement; the way I read it is that Sun is now going to distribute the Google Toolbar, the same way that we distribute through some of our products a customized Corel version of the Yahoo Toolbar.

But what is very, very interesting is the interest for alternative office suites. And here we are the clear number two with a proven alternative to Microsoft Office, which is highly compatible, has the same feature richness, and where the look and feel acts like Microsoft Office. WordPerfect has been endorsed by very large OEMs like Dell who are distributing millions of copies every year.

To me, it's much better news even to companies like Sun, which has a worldwide market share of less than one tenth of a percent by any measurable metric. So in that sense, it's great news for us. That is the big "so what" of all this news.

BetaNews: Why do you think all of a sudden people seem to be getting sick of Microsoft at the same time? For example, Apple is making somewhat of a resurgence with Mac OS X, and there is a lot of interest in OpenOffice.org and StarOffice. Why do you think the public is looking for alternatives?

Richard Carriere: I don't think it's a sudden event, if anything. I think it's a normal trend. You have a dominant player in the market for many, many years. They are forcing their solutions, and their solutions don't show much innovation, and the price is relatively high. Naturally, people in any market will look for alternatives. That has been going on for a while, and that has been the main reason why WordPerfect is back and growing and successful.

Granted, we haven't done the same kind of extravagant marketing activities or announcements that some other players have done, like Sun with StarOffice, but reality is in the numbers, and we're selling millions of copies of WordPerfect. To me, this is the bottom line: Sure there is interest and a lot of press around the alternatives, and to me its good news because in the end people look at what's out there. As I said, we're the clear number two regardless of the noise that's made by Sun around StarOffice or OpenOffice.

BN: The big thing with StarOffice has been its OpenDocument support. What is Corel's status with that and can we expect it in WordPerfect anytime in the future?

RC: We are a founding member of OASIS and on the committee for the OpenDocument format, so we are participating in the creation of that standard. The reality is that, today, this standard is not adopted or being used, period. Of course, we hear news about open standards, because when you create one you don't need to necessarily rely on one single vendor, and we're fully supportive of it.

But the reality is that there's no adoption of these standards and, as far as I know, there still needs to be some development to make it into a real product. Fine, Sun announces that StarOffice will support ODF, but the reality is people need to exchange files, and today nobody is exchanging files using ODF. On the other hand, if you talk about open formats, here we are with support for PDF in WordPerfect. You can save documents in PDF and exchange them very easily. That's an open format.

We have also supported XML for many versions. We have some of our enterprise customers for whom we have created fully integrated XML solutions where you use WordPerfect Office to create and edit documents, and then in a fully automated manner you send your XML documents. So these are real examples of what's happening today. We're part of it, and quite frankly, the day that a real market materializes for ODF, we will consider it, and actually already are considering being participants in creating that format.

GW: We're heavily involved in OASIS and very strong supporters of the evolution of that ODF standard to be sure.

BN: That leads into our next question. Your company was one of the founding members of the committee. What happens if Corel sees a market for it? How long would it take to implement OpenDocument in WordPerfect?

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