Corel's second move into the hardware market will be a Java-based network computer, optimised for videoconferencing.
A source at the company said: "The NC/Java/Internet market is the best place for us to really attack Microsoft. Microsoft has no strategy there. We are keen to offer the whole lot, hardware included."
Corel, which announced plans for Java versions of its Office suite, targeted at the NC, last month, is pushing video support as the main feature that will distinguish its Video NC from the crowd. Three months ago the company made its first hardware move, announcing a Java-based personal digital assistant, to ship in mid-1997. Both devices come with Corel Office for Java bundled.
The move into hardware is primarily designed to increase penetration of Corel Office, but to do this the NC needs to appeal to consumers confused by a rash of prospective machines to choose from. The Corel version runs on a Motorola PowerPC processor and runs Sun's Java Virtual Machine. It comes with two PC card slots but no integrated hard drive. Adding to the multimedia effect, it has a built-in speaker and microphone. A Corel digital camera can also be plugged in for playing video or conferencing. Supporting all this are 16Mbytes of Ram and an Ethernet interface.
Analysts questioned whether Corel could acquire the distribution network needed to compete with more mainstream NC makers such as IBM, but Mike Welch, analyst at Inteco, said the move could actually improve the channels of sale for Corel software. "Offering an NC may enable it to sign resellers that then take its software into certain accounts," he said.
It also gives Corel a headstart in the NC software race, which will eventually become dominated by two or three players as the Windows market has, he continued.
Manufacturing of the NC and PDA will be outsourced to hardware partners. "We have no plans to become a hardware manufacturer," said president Michael Cowpland. The NC will ship in the first quarter next year but no pricing is available yet.
Separately, Corel said it would initiate an NT server-based licensing programme for its Office suite that enables companies to pay a fixed price per server, which can then support any number of users. This return to a processor-based style of software pricing more familiar in the mainframe world is designed to make licensing simpler to understand and administer for systems managers, said Corel.
Corel Office for Windows NT Server 4.0, which ships later this month, can be accessed from 16-bit or 32-bit desktops. The US price for a server licence wlil be $1,995 but UK pricing is still to be finalised. Packages for additional servers then cost $1,595. The price falls further for companies with more than 25 servers.
Corel signalled its commitment to the NC market when it announced plans for Java versions of its office suite last month. The main target platform for such implementations will be NCs, since they do not offer the full functionality of the Windows packages and are designed for users with cut-down machines and requirement for the more basic functions of Corel Office.
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