Emboldened by a rapidly increasing portfolio of computer makers that have chosen Corel's office productivity software over Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works, Corel announced this week that the next version of its software--WordPerfect Office 11--will ship in April, at least 2 months ahead of Office 2003. Corel had essentially given up on the office-productivity market as recently as 1 year ago, and when I spoke with company representatives about their plans for WordPerfect Office 10, they told me that WordPerfect owners seeking to upgrade were the only market they were concerned about. Since then, Microsoft's licensing practices have caused PC makers to look for alternatives, and Corel's mature, full-featured, and inexpensive offering has come to the rescue.

"With WordPerfect Office 11, we're offering a highly capable product to longtime WordPerfect Office users and to a growing number of users seeking an alternative to Microsoft's cost and strict terms of licensing," Graham Brown, Corel's executive vice president of software development, said in a statement. Corel thinks that corporate users who want to integrate XML into their business processes are the primary market for the company's new office-productivity suite.

Corel WordPerfect Office 11 Beta 1, which ships this week, includes numerous XML-related features, as does its Microsoft equivalent. Users can publish WordPerfect documents, slide shows, and spreadsheets to XML, for example, and the suite also supports a new publish-to-PDF feature. Corel hasn't changed file formats for this version, and the suite maintains backward-compatibility with documents created in WordPerfect versions 6.1 to 10. Corel even adds some interesting Microsoft Outlook compatibilities that let users use Outlook's document round-tripping capabilities to collaborate on WordPerfect documents.