Corel buys WordPerfect; new release due in April

Federal WordPerfect users have to ride out another sale of their beloved word processing package. However, the new owner said an upgraded version of the package and its companion office suite will be issued on time in April.

Novell Inc., which bought WordPerfect in June 1994, last week sold it, along with the Quattro Pro spreadsheet and Presentations presentation graphics programs, to Corel Corp., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, for $181 million in cash, stocks and licensing rights. Novell will hold about 20 percent of Corel's stock and will gain a seat on the company's board of directors.

Corel is best known for its popular graphics program, CorelDraw. With this acquisition, Corel now owns the PerfectOffice software suite. Although the suite has not been popular with federal customers, the WordPerfect package retains a large, loyal user base in the federal market.

The question for users is whether WordPerfect will end up on the heap of once-dominant, now-dead productivity applications, such as WordStar, XyWrite and VisiCalc. Corel chief executive officer Michael Cowpland said that will not happen this time.

`Trying for Maximum Continuity'

Corel is committed to supporting WordPerfect customers who have site licenses and contracts for upgrades, Cowpland said. "We will be trying for maximum continuity," he said.

Randy Jacobs, director of government programs for Comark Government and Education Sales Inc., said federal buyers remain interested in WordPerfect. "We ran into very significant pockets of WordPerfect users," he said. "I don't think [the sale] is going to have a significant effect."

But another reseller disagreed, saying, "I don't know anybody who isn't migrating to the Microsoft Office suite anyway."

Novell and Corel have not yet settled the issue of who will end up with WordPerfect's federal sales force, but Corel plans to establish an organization to handle those duties, according to a spokeswoman.

"Corel has been lean and mean and has shied away from the [General Services Administration] schedule," Jacobs said.

Customers looking for WordPerfect on the GSA schedule in 1996 will have two sources: Government Technology Services Inc. and Government Micro Resources Inc. The two companies are also slated to offer Corel products when the schedule contracts are awarded in April.

"We have had a relationship with Corel for some time, and they will be added to our schedule for 1996," said Tony Colangelo, GTSI's director of vendor relations. "It will be Corel's challenge to leverage WordPerfect's existing market share in the federal channel. The challenge for Corel will be to develop products that are sufficiently different from existing products."

Corel has already said it will release an upgraded version of PerfectOffice. Due to hit the market in April, the suite will feature built-in Internet tools.

"We are particularly excited about the new release that has been prepared," Cowpland said. "It is a huge leap forward in technology."

WordPerfect for Windows 95 will let users print documents directly to the World Wide Web as HTML documents, he said. Quattro Pro will be able to gather information from the Web, and Presentations will let users direct slide-show output to the Web, Cowpland said.

The purchase makes Corel the world's second-largest applications software company, Cowpland said.

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