Corel plans a major European push as shipment of its Office for Java looms. The company, which admits it has misjudged the European corporate market, now needs to move quickly to challenge Microsoft Office with its network computer-based strategy.
Office for Java will ship next month, three months ahead of the main rival project on this platform Lotus' Kona applets for Smartsuite. Both projects are on schedule, but both suppliers admit they need a serious sales and marketing effort to challenge the Windows/Microsoft Office domination of the office market.
First, Lotus outlined plans to beef up marketing spend in Europe at last week's Lotusphere conference in France (see separate story). Now, Corel is setting up offices in four European countries, only a year after closing all the European Wordperfect subsidiaries. The new centres will be in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands and show that Corel has rethought its previous statement that it did not require local offices.
Michael Cowpland, head of Corel, admitted to a VNU journalist last week that the company has seriously misjudged the European corporate market. Market research indicates that Java applets still lag far behind Microsoft in awareness terms within these large companies. A Corel source said today: "We probably didn't take a sufficiently European view."
This is likely to have contributed to Corel's recent poor results in Europe. Users outside the UK have been angered by the delay in releasing non-English versions of Corel products. Office Professional 7, which shipped in May, is not yet available in French or Dutch. "We have to look at where market share is," said the source. However, the company is unlikely to repeat its success in the US retail market, where it has overtaken Microsoft Office in market share terms, if it does not take European users seriously.
In one respect, Corel has been turning to Europe. Its PIM, to be included in Corel Office 8, will be based on a product called FileXpress, developed by a small Belgian software house, Creasoft. FileXpress runs on a database engine - though not relational - and so may prove a step ahead of Microsoft's PIM for Office, Outlook, which runs on files in special directories and has problems with exchanging information with other PIMs.
As the office user base awaits the shipment of Java suites from Corel and Lotus, both companies say their strategy is to offer an alternative to Microsoft Office, not by challenging it in the Windows environment, but by offering a Java alternative that can run on network computers as well as PCs. The marketing messages behind their ramped-up campaigns will be similar - that users rarely need the full-blown features, and cost, of Microsoft Office, and that Office is tied into Microsoft proprietary technology. "Kona is a set of applications built without the excess facilities that people do not need," Commented Larry Roshfeld, general manager of Lotus' business applications unit."
"The advantage we will have over Office 97 is that we are based on open standards, not proprietary to Windows," said Eric Lefebvre, Corel's European marketing manager.
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