The US Department of Justice (DOJ), which pursued an antitrust case against Microsoft for several years, has snubbed the software giant and signed a significant software deal with rival Corel. Under terms of the deal, the DOJ will purchase 50,000 licenses of Corel's WordPerfect Office 12, the latest version of the company's office productivity suite. The deal is worth $13.2 million over 5 years.
  
"The DOJ chose WordPerfect Office 12 because, quite simply, our users require it to do their jobs," Mary Aileen O'Donovan, a program manager for the DOJ's Justice Management Division, said. "In the courts, or among attorneys, it's the tool of choice for the legal arena. Corel has consistently shown that they really understand how enterprise agreements should work; we pay once and then go forth in use. Corel understands our needs and that makes our life a lot easier."
  
Those needs, a Corel representative told me, involve more flexible licensing terms than Microsoft offers. The DOJ will pay Corel about $40 per desktop to upgrade to the latest version of WordPerfect. The cost of upgrading to Microsoft Office would have been $150 per desktop. Although the DOJ does purchase Windows and Microsoft Office where needed, the Corel representative praised the DOJ's continued major investments in non-Microsoft software years after the agency filed major antitrust charges against Microsoft.
  
After struggling for years, WordPerfect became a major player again in the office productivity market in 2004, when major PC makers such as Dell started offering low-cost WordPerfect products to customers as alternatives to Microsoft Works and Office. Corel says that it has more than 20 million customers worldwide, a market that is much larger than that of, say, Apple Computer's well-regarded Mac OS X. Today, Corel markets WordPerfect for its unique functionality, broad capabilities, and low price.
  
WordPerfect Office 12 is a full-featured office productivity suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and address book applications, according to Corel. Because WordPerfect is compatible with popular file formats, including Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF, WordPerfect Office 12 users can easily interoperate with users of other applications. And, unlike open-source office productivity alternatives such as OpenOffice.org, Corel provides support for WordPerfect. Finally, Corel gives WordPerfect corporate licensees home and laptop privileges so they can install the same copy of the product at home and on a laptop in addition to a desktop computer.
  
Privately held Corel doesn't disclose sales figures, but the $13.2 million deal likely represents more to the company than just the dollar figure. By comparison, Microsoft made more than $2.8 billion from its Office products in just the final quarter of 2004. The DOJ admitted that it's aware of the ramifications of its decision, given the agency's history with Microsoft. "We picked the underdog," O'Donovan said.