Corel WordPerfect bundling deal unveiled

Hong Kong motherboard manufacture the partner, not a "major PC vendor", as promised

Let it never be said that The Register doesn't 'fess up when its speculation doesn't come match up to the actions a company finally takes. Though in legal cases, we will always maintain that reality is at fault. Corel's "major" deal with a "leading PC vendor" turned out to be nothing more than an agreement to get motherboard manufacturer PC Chips Group to include a WordPerfect Suite 8 CD with every board it ships. We suggested Compaq would make a good partner. We still do, but that's not what was announced yesterday. Hong Kong-based PC Chips apparently shipped 15 million motherboards in 1998, mainly to no-name cloners in over 30 countries. That equates to more PCs than Compaq (13 million, according to IDC stats) and IBM (eight million) sold last year. Is it good news for Corel? Corel's CEO, Michael Cowpland, was enthusiastic, but we're not so sure. For a start, shipping software with a motherboard is no guarantee that it will be installed, even if money-saving PC assemblers choose to ship it in the box instead of a copy of the Microsoft Office or Lotus SmartSuite that they would have to pay for. That's clearly what Corel hopes they'll do, but many will choose to go for Office and pass the cost on to the consumer who's expecting to get that package. Then there's the branding -- volume is one thing, but if you're software gets linked with cut-price PCs over whom you have no control over quality, it could hit your brand hard. Many of PC Chips' customers are companies out to save the last cent in margin -- they're hardly likely to have the same level of QA that the majors provide. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, so it's not clear how the deal is likely to benefit Corel up front. Presumably PC Chips is paying up front for the software, though whether it's enough to turn Corel's red ink into black remains to be seen. ®

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